Hydrographic routine in the Arctic

Surveying of bottom relief, providing of navigation and hydrographic support to the shipping industry, dredging on the Northern Sea Route are the tasks of FSUE Hydrographic Company, a part of Rosatom. General Director of Hydrographic Company Aleksandr Bengert tells IAA PortNews about the completed and planned works on the Northern Sea Route.

— Mr. BengertHydrographic Company has been conducting reconstruction works on Sabetta seaport’s Seaway Canal for over two years. What is the current phase of the project?

— Phase 1 of the reconstruction has been completed. The scope of dredging performed at the Seaway Canal exceeded 47 million cbm including 32.5 million cbm dredged in 2020 and 15.1 million cbm – this year. Phase 1 of the project resulted in the expansion of the canal from 295 to 475 meters at its straight section and from 278 to 573 meters at the turn. An additional 475-meter wide branch has been created. The canal has been extended from 49 kilometers to 51.6 kilometers with the depth of 15.1 meters.

Two basins have been built at the canal to ensure the delivery of technological equipment to Utrenny terminal. 32 floating aids to navigation have been placed along the canal.

Phase 2, the final wirks to be completed in 2022, foresee excavation of 13 million cbm of material. The total scope of dredging over two phases is estimated at 59.8 million cbm. Mordraga LLC is the contractor of the dredging works.

— How does the construction of federally owned facilities proceed at Utrenny terminal under Arctic LNG 2 project?

— Dredging works in the water area of Utrenny terminal were completed in September 2021. The scope of dredging performed over three years exceeded 24 million cbm. The access canal and the water area of terminal Utrenny has thus been deepened to 15 meters while the natural depth in the area was limited by 2–3 meters in some places.

The achieved dimensions of the access canal and the water area let welcome large ships such as gas carrier Christophe de Margerie (Yamalmax) with a length of 299 meters, width of 50 meters and draft of up to 12 meters in the round the year navigation season.

The construction of ice protection facilities continues. The Southern and Northern facilities (3.1 and 1.3 km long accordingly) will protect the water area from floating ice able to damage the berths and the fleet. The structures are being built by MRTS JSC under the terminal construction project. A total of 5,746 piles are to be driven with 3,664 piles having been installed already. The construction of ice protection facilities is to be completed in 2022.

— Are there plans to develop and build your own dredging fleet?

— In 2021, average annual maintenance dredging totals about 1 million cbm. Next year, it is going to increase as we will service additional facilities such as the newly built access canal to Utrenny terminal. From 2023, we will have to perform annual maintenance dredging on the Seaway Canal in the Gulf of Ob within a limited period of time.

According to preliminary estimations, total scope of maintenance dredging at our facilities in the Gulf of Ob will make about 5 million cbm from 2023, taking into consideration the Seaway Canal. In this context, the project on development of the dredging fleet is crucial. Optimal composition of the dredging fleet will be determined in November-December 2021.

Besides, were are set to revise our approach to maintenance dredging and apply not only conventional hopper dredgers but also technologies based on trawling and distribution of sediments. We take a close look at the technologys of hydraulic washing-out used by the leaders of the global dredging market. I believe it is a proper way to decrease to cost of maintenance dredging.

— Are you going to build or to buy dredging ships?

— A variety of schemes are possible. They can be purchased but the secondary market of dredgers is small. So we will act according to the situation. We do not rule out the construction of our own fleet and we understand how this idea should be implemented.

As a parallel decision, we look into long-term interaction with one of major dredging companies. It will have to transfer ships involved in our projects to the flag of Russia. We can ensure contracting for quite a long period of time which is certainly interesting for the market.

— The key activities of Hydrographic Company is bottom relief surveying. Could you please tell about the recent season and share your plans for the next one.

— The plan for navigation and hydrographic support in the part of bottom relief surveying has been fulfilled. Over the season of 2021 we surveyed a total of 83,600 virtual km which is about 41,500 lane km. That is an absolute record per navigation season in the post-Soviet period.

To fulfill our survey plan we annually deploy 7 to 8 ships. Apart from our own ships we currently have to charter some ships. That was the practice last year as well. Starting form the next year, the number of chartered ships will be reduced because Hydrographic Company will get four new vessels in late 2021 / early 2022. Those buoy tenders and hydrographic boats are being outfitted and prepared for sea trials.

As for the survey plans, we know for sure that the scope of those works will not decrease in the future. Moreover, with the increased efficiency of survey and application of new technologies we will try to expand bottom relief surveying next year. The key focus is on the eastern sector of the Arctic with an eye on development of high-latitude routes for ships.

— Will you equip icebreakers with echo-sounders?

— It is a widely discussed issue. We clearly understand that the final decision should be justified by economical and engineering reasonability.

Operation of echo-sounders during conventional surveying of bottom relief in the conditions of ice formation will be hard since ice in the water area interferes considerably and distorts data. Besides, icebreakers are quite expensive watercraft. Therefore, universality of vessels operating in the Northern Sea Route waters is under discussion today. Construction of a multifunctional hydrographic ship of a high ice class is in line with this approach. Multipurpose ships able to execute diverse tasks, not only surveying of bottom relief, are needed.

— The tender for construction of an Arc7 hydrographic ship has failed this year and you opted for development of your own design to be put out to tender in the future. Is that right?

— In November 2021, we announced a tender for the development of a detailed design financed by the company’s own resources. However, there are different opinions in this regard: is a high-quality rough design sufficient for a shipbuilding company to make full-scale calculations and estimate their capabilities or a detailed design needed?

Some companies claim rough design is more than enough according to globally established practices. Meanwhile we understand that the development of a detailed design and working design documentation depends a lot on capabilities of shipyards and shipbuilding technologies they apply.
We believe that absence of a detailed design prevented major Russian shipbuilders from taking part in our tenders. So, our decision is to develop a detailed design within five or six months with a new tender scheduled for summer 2022. However, we count on keeping earlier announced deadline set for the end of 2024 unchanged.

— What about plans on breaking new ground?

— In 2022, we will try implementing a project on creation of digital ports. It is actually full-scale digitalization of a port, its hydraulic engineering structures, berths, shore facilities, bottom relief. This model will include the results of research, defect identification, survey to create a database. Further on,  we will see those projects dynamics.

Besides, in the near future, Hydrographic Company is going to establish a Center of Engineering and Technical Expertise in Saint-Petersburg.

— What tasks will the Center of Engineering and Technical Expertise address?

— The Center will accumulate advanced research findings and develop design documentation. We see that such an intellectual incubator is in high demand today. With it we could share our expertise in technologies we apply as a company implementing sophisticated and cost-intensive projects.

We have thoroughly considered organization of construction supervision at our facilities. In cooperation with our partners we apply systems featuring high level of digitalization, technologies for supervision of horizontal construction including involvement of drones, orthophotomaps and digital twins in the form of database on project and performance documentation.

It is crucial to create a platform for discussion and implementation of early contracting ideas. How does it work in a standard way? Something is designed by someone, then it passes expert evaluation, then a general contractor is selected and it starts thinking about practical implementation of the project. In fact, contractors do not usually enter projects at their initial phase, hence absence of opportunity to ask relevant questions in time.

Unfortunately, absence of appropriate EPC contracts which are widespread worldwide is a real problem today. Russia still does not have such a mechanism. We are currently looking forward to a progress on reconstruction of the Gorodetsky hydrosystem with EPC contract to be financed by the federal budget because that is going to be the first experience of that kind in Russia.

По сути, Center of Engineering and Technical Expertise will become a sort of business incubator within Hydrographic Company with its pool of partners under our key projects including the world’s major dredging companies. Thus, a base will be formed through a kind of workshop. Under a residence principle, it will include the key companies, young and promising ones, ready to contribute.

We have already revised our approach to the current projects. Under the project on creation of a system for monitoring of hydrometeorological factors on the Seaway Canal in the Gulf of Ob we are in an active dialogue with our potential contractors, equipment manufacturers and scientists  - all those involved in the future.

With our Center of Engineering and Technical Expertise we would be happy to promote technologies held by Rosatom.

— When are you going to establish it?

— We are going to present Saint-Petersburg Center of Engineering and Technical Expertise in January 2022.


Photo: FSUE "Hydrographic Enterprise"
Source: PortNews