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Most iconic maritime project of our time

  • 200 million cubic metres material dredged
  • 35-kilometre-long channel
  • 150-meter-wide channel (across bottom)
  • 24-meter-deep channel

The pyramids symbolise Egypt’s history, but the newly dredged Suez Canal will be the icon of its future. A lot of team work was needed to achieve the best results: records were broken, ships were mobilised from all over the globe, and the dredging work went on 24 hours a day. ‘Two-way container ship traffic was impossible. That’s precisely why a second Suez Canal was vital to Egypt. The construction was like a rollercoaster ride, but we did it!’ says Piet Prins, Consortium Operations Manager. On 5 August 2014 the starting signal was given for this enormous dredging project; one of the largest and most iconic maritime projects of our time.

Ingenious and powerful

It’s all about innovation and flexibility, that’s the added value. Investing in modern equipment and working safely is very important to Van Oord. Just consider Van Oord’s Marine ingenuity on this project: imagine the volume of almost 80 Great Pyramids of Giza. That was the volume of sand that had to be dredged to create the new Suez waterway. More than 1,800 people from 45 countries worked on the project, including 300 dedicated members of Van Oord’s own staff. Twenty-one cutter suction dredgers were deployed with the largest and most powerful dredgers in the world. Such as Van Oord’s Artemis, 130 metres long and an impressive total installed power of 24,650 kilowatt. Why this task was so special? Piet Prins: ‘Because we had to do it all in one year. It made this project an enormous logistical puzzle.' Thanks to the efforts of our dedicated Van Oord team and our consortium partners, we made it on time and within budget.’

Extra attention

Attention to safety is embedded in Van Oord’s working methods and procedures. In the case of this project, safety played an even more crucial role: ‘Having so many cutter suction dredgers working at the same time over a longer period meant that we had to pay extra attention to safety’, according to Piet Prins. ‘Lots of equipment working on a small section of waterway and people from different nationalities with different expertise coming together: that required an effective safety policy and close collaboration with all parties. Fortunately there were no lost-time injuries during Van Oord’s share of the work on the project. On the 6 August 2015, the opening ceremony was spectacular.’ 

200 million m³ of sand. This is not only an impressive volume to dredge, but it’s even more impressive to dredge it in a very short period of time. Looking back on this extremely turbulent project, I feel very proud.

Piet Prins, Member of the Project Management Team
Piet Prins, Member of the Project Management Team

Benefits for everyone

The Suez Canal was created in the second half of the nineteenth century to connect the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. It is one of the world’s most famous waterways and has huge economic significance. Despite this, two-way container ship traffic was impossible, which is precisely why a second canal was necessary, according to the client, the Suez Canal Authority. Because it is an essential shipping link between Europe and Asia, more capacity will benefit not only Egypt’s economic development, but all shipping and trading companies worldwide. 

Sharing a long Suez Canal history

Van Oord and the Suez Canal share a long history. Adriaan Volker, one of the firms founding fathers, travelled to Egypt as early as 1897 to scout potential dredging work in the canal. In 1906, his visit resulted in a contract to dredge the Suez Canal from Ismailia to the southernmost point of the Great Bitter Lake. In 1950, three Van Oord companies were successful in acquiring new dredging activities in Port Said and the Suez Canal. This project became the first large-scale Dutch dredging project following the Second World War. In 1956, the Suez Crisis broke out and further development of the Suez Canal came to a standstill. Almost 60 years later, Van Oord is taking the opportunity to return to work on this important shipping route. 

Additional information
  • Start date
    18 October 2014 (contract awarded)
  • End date
    6 August 2015
  • Location
    Suez Canal, Egypt
  • Business Unit
    Middle East
  • Client
    Suez Canal Authority