The Good Side And The Bad Side Of A Statue At Port Said

Statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps in a garden at Port Said Shipyard
Statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps in a garden at Port Said Shipyard

As you’ve probably already guessed, I am quite fond of old stuff. Especially when it has some relation to dredging. Last post on Omar’s graduation1 not only brought back my memories on the interesting lectures by professor de Koning2, it also rekindled my inspiration to write about something that I have up my sleeve for a long time already. Although, due to the current global turmoil3, the message that I want to convey has been drastically altered. It turns out to be more of an opinion than an informative perspective on the history of the Suez Canal.

It was in the early years of my career, that I was building dredge ‘10th of Ramadan’ for the Suez Canal Authority4. We designed the dredge and prepared the components at Damen Dredging Equipment5, but the actual construction took place at Port Said Shipyard6, a subsidiary of the client. I’ve spent many hours roaming over the yard to locate components that were sent there and we needed them to inspect or install. On one of those excursions, I encountered the statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps.

Ferdinand De Lesseps was an interesting figure7, who owed his success to being the right person at the right time at the right place. In his earlier career, during a quarantine period in 1832 in Alexandria, he received a book that discussed Napoleons ideas about connecting the Mediterranean with the Red Sea8. Captivated by this idea, he was able to use his connections and positions to get the concession to dig the canal as we know it in 1859. In honour of this achievement a impressive statue was placed at the beginning of the Canal at the Port Said side after the opening in 1869.

As it happened in those days, the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez, claimed the canal and all involved land and business for the French government. All revenue from the Canal ended up in France and not in the country that had worked so hard for the Canal. This has been a great disappointment for Egypt. When Nasser declared the Suez Canal a national property in 1956, the statue was removed as a gesture that Egypt was independent and no European country had any business ruling it as a colony. In a careful act of historical awareness, the statue was not destroyed, but placed at the Port Side Shipyard to be taken care of until the future would find an appropriate purpose. There it is kept in honour by a select group of craftsmen, who depend for their subsistence on his legacy.

Statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps at the entrance of the Suez Canal (Credit: Google)
Statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps at the entrance of the Suez Canal (Credit: Google)

In 1956 it was not so much vandalism by the people that the statue was removed from public space.7 It was a statement by a public conscious government with history awareness that prevented further harm from mindless destruction. Now, over half a century later, we see more acts of iconoclasm to historical statues, and then in a so called civilized world… A lot of historical figures were children of their own time. And for sure, those times were not very civilized in hindsight. OK, I am history aware and enjoyed my history lessons. There I had to learn that the raids of the barbarians on Rome, the Crusades to occupied Jerusalem and the iconoclasm in our own Reformation era were to be condemned. So, imagine when a lot of historical figures were removed from the street by emotional destruction, would later generations not condemn us in turn? What I would find even worse, is that future generations would not be aware of the dark side of those old ages as there are no statues to remind them to it. Maybe we can reintroduce a penalty for those ‘heroes’ from their own days: ‘the pillory’9. Just as with all sentences, the penalty can only awarded by the government, or an appointed committee, not the public. If that fails, store them under the custody of people who take good care of them without reverence. And at least let the pedestal remain to remind people of their history. ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ (George Santayana)10

Possible implementation of a statue with a pillory sign?
Possible implementation of a statue with a pillory sign?

References

  1. Graduation Omar Karam: Rock Cutting The Egyptian Way, Discover Dredging
  2. Boundary Conditions for the use of Dredging Equipment, Lecture notes i82 A+B, prof. J. de Koning
  3. Violence and controversies during the George Floyd protests, Wikipedia
  4. The Ancient History of the Cutter Suction Dredge ‘10th of Ramadan’, Discover Dredging
  5. DTC – Think Global, Act Local, Damen Shipyards
  6. Port Sid Shipyard, Suez Canal authority
  7. Ferdinand de Lesseps, Wikipedia
  8. Mémoire sur la communication de la mer des Indes à la Méditerranée par la mer Rouge et l’isthme de Soueys (p.352), Google
  9. Pillory, Wikipedia
  10. George Santayana, Wikiquote

See also

The Last Dredging And Port Construction Magazine, The End Of An Era

The last issue of Dredging and Port Construction
The last issue of Dredging and Port Construction

It is not very often that one experiences the end of an era. Hiroshima, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Brexit. Those were very important events with a global impact. Now there is another end of a period, with only a limited impact on a small community affected. After half a century, our trusted journal ‘Dredging and Port Construction’ has come to an end1. In the fast moving media world, this will only be a footnote in history. Yet, as a magazine, it was close to our community. It reported on projects and people we knew, but also as a platform for the CEDA to communicate with us for 42 years2.

IHS Markit has decided to cease this publication, the lack of new subscriptions and decreasing advertisements. You know, the general malaise in paper printing. Somehow, the digital revolution didn’t turn out so well for them. Other digital media providers covering the dredging industry seem to have a better business model to survive the transition. Right?

Well, there is a big disadvantage of those free service, hot shot, social media savvy new comers, they just forward press releases that they receive or sweep up from social media. They don’t have dredging literate expert editors writing long genuine articles about topics that would not have access to coverage by themselves. Having your own knowledgeable editors doing original research vetting the facts and reporting from a broad perspective with a solidly founded opinion is expensive. And that makes it very difficult for a classic publisher to survive in these modern times.

We will suffer in this new era without our trusted DPC. We can sign up to the usual free subscription daily newsletters from the new media publishers and read the endlessly repeating press releases. We will miss the in depth reports on big projects or critical comments on regulatory issues. We will have to figure this out from within our own social media bubbles. It will narrow our view and I certainly hope we don’t lose the perspective of other members in our community.

Please be advised, that also the website will be closed at the end of June3, leaving only the digital archive of the magazine accessible4, which goes back to May 2015. Although the last editor, Ines Nastali, told me she is happy to send out articles if requested by the dredging community. There will only be some dusty old paper versions that are stored in a forgotten archive or that one issue we keep for some sweet memory. At least that is what I have done. Over the years, I have written several articles that have been placed in this magazine and I cherish those issues. The first one was already long ago about a CEDA excursion to the IJsseloog in the Ketelmeer project. The last one was a reprint from my post5 about energy transition in the dredging industry discussed during the CEDA Dredging Days6.

CEDA Dredging Days 2019 panel discussion (Credit: CEDA)
CEDA Dredging Days 2019 panel discussion (Credit: CEDA)

It was a good experience to contribute to the magazine that way. And made me proud, that my posts at this website were picked up by the media. I will see what will come along in the future. I am open to any opportunity. At least, I am determined to keep www.discoverdredging.com alive as an independent platform to point out dredging related topics. And this will be a lonely place left to find an opinion about our community, albeit, very personal.

Although we are an industry in an economic sense, it is a community. When I think of companies and projects, I think about the people I know over there. And my memory about Dredging and Port Construction will not only be the magazine, but also the nice cooperation with the editors. At this moment I would like to especially thank Tony Slinn, Lisa Maher and Ines Nastali for a their work.

Ines Nastali, senior custom publishing editor (Credit: Ines Nastali)
Ines Nastali, senior custom publishing editor (Credit: Ines Nastali)

References

  1. End of an era, IHS Markit DPC
  2. IHS DPC Latest, CEDA
  3. About us, IHS Markit DPC
  4. Welcome to your digital magazine portal, IHS Markit
  5. We Choose To Adopt Energy Transition, But How Will We Succeed? Discover Dredging
  6. Dredging industry addresses energy transition challenges, IHS Markit DPC

See also

CEDA

We Choose To Adopt Energy Transition, But How Will We Succeed?

President John F. Kennedy speaking at Rice University on September 12, 1962 (Credit: NASA)
President John F. Kennedy speaking at Rice University on September 12, 1962 (Credit: NASA)

‘We choose to go to the moon.’ Was the famous speech at Rice University of President John F. Kennedy to express his ambition to send his nation to the Moon1. At the time, his call was far from clearly achievable. But it was a very clear roadmap and it quickly gained traction. The success of the Apollo project is well known. Neil Armstrong did land on the Moon within a decade and the American flag is still planted on its surface.

Panel discussion at the CEDA Dredging Days 2019 with Mike van der Vijver
Panel discussion at the CEDA Dredging Days 2019 with Mike van der Vijver

At the CEDA Dredging Days 20192, there was an interesting panel discussion on ‘Energy transition: the views in our dredging community’3. Panel members were: Eric de Deckere, Michael Deruyk, Kaj Portin and Klaas Visser. The discussion was moderated by Mike van der Vijver from MindMeeting. As an introductory teaser to the audience, he posited the claim: ‘Excessive ambition drives breakthroughs’. The question is: ‘Is the dredging industry ambitious enough to convert to a new fossil free energy source?’ The audience was polled for their opinion on a scale from one to ten and the response ranged from three to eight. The three represented the position, that the industry is not doing much. What is visibly done, are only single purpose, company specific solutions that are not adopted by the community. On the other hand, there was also a very positive signal with an eight for ambition. The sense of urgency is very well present in the community. Most companies are developing plans and cooperating in working groups, such as the CEDA Working Group on Energy Efficiency4. Also, the government is pitching in with initiatives on zero emission maintenance dredging, where the dredging community is actively participating in putting forward proposals.

So, why is there still no zero emission dredge? What is the ambition lacking? The hint is the opinion that the effort is not focussed. The strong motivation in Kennedy’s speech was that there was a very clear picture what to do. What do we do: ‘Put a man on the Moon’. When: ‘By the end of the decade’. How: ‘Bring him safely back’. Ambition with a clear plan can indeed achieve great things. Ambition without motivation will only bring daydreaming and lethargy.

Block diagram of influencers for energy transition in the dredging community
Block diagram of influencers for energy transition in the dredging community

To achieve something, we need motivation. And who is responsible for pulling this off? Mike polled the audience again for: 1) Government, 2) Public opinion, 3) Companies, 4) Technology. There was not a clear picture here either. All positions are valid. Another driver is the reward for the effort. The Apollo project effectively created part of our modern society. What would the energy transition yield for the dredging community: ‘Learning by challenge’, ‘Flexibility and resilience in energy generation’, ‘Low maintenance and higher independence’?

At this website I can’t change the world, but addressing most issues mentioned, I can only put forward my idea on the ‘How’ motivation. We know how to apply power. As long as the power arrives electrically, we can use it. Essentially, we have to generate electricity with a flexible power source. The investment lifetime of a dredge often exceeds 30 years, but under the current circumstances, the power plant only lasts ten. The solution would be to have some separate module for power generation. Either locally, near the dredge, or remote at the end of the pipeline. As every project and application will be different, it will be a challenge to design the specific solution. But I am looking forward in developing the solutions below with any interested customer5.

Transition schedule to convert to fossil fuel free dredging equipment
Transition schedule to convert to fossil fuel free dredging equipment

References

  1. We choose to go to the Moon, Wikipedia
  2. CEDA Dredging Days 2019, CEDA
  3. Programme 7 November 2019, Panel Discussion, CEDA
  4. CEDA Working Group on Energy Efficiency, CEDA
  5. Innovation at Damen Dredging Equipment, Damen

See also