Dredge manufacturers outline trends, developments

By |  May 26, 2022
More dredge operators want to dig deeper to maximize mineral reserves. Photo: Rohr-Idreco Americas

More dredge operators want to dig deeper to maximize mineral reserves. Photo: Rohr-Idreco Americas

Almost halfway into 2022, dredge OEMs are filled with optimism.

As customers move forward with dredging projects, some of which were put on hold at the start of the pandemic, many manufacturers are on track for, or are already experiencing, a record year.

In Louisiana, DSC Dredge’s Charlie Johnson says 2022 has already been a strong year and that orders are backlogged to 2024.

“A lot of opportunity out there in the aggregate industry is based on the infrastructure bill,” says Johnson, director of domestic dredge sales at DSC Dredge. “We’re getting opportunities for new facilities, new greenfield sites – there’s a lot of opportunity out there right now. More than we can keep up with.”

Elliot Archibald, vice president of sales and management at Supreme Manufacturing, says his company is having similar success. In fact, Archibald says Supreme has never been as busy as it is right now.

“If there is anybody out there right now that is not having a record year in some capacity when it comes to anything related to infrastructure, there is something wrong,” he says. “It’s really enjoyable right now to be a part of everything that is going on in the aggregates industry. I can’t imagine anything else I’d rather be doing right now.”

After stepping away from the market in early 2020, Rohr-Idreco reorganized as Rohr-Idreco Americas later that year and was fully back in the marketplace in early 2021. Since then, president and general manager Richard Crowe says business has grown steadily.

“We’re starting to get recognized a bit again,” Crowe says. “Our service group has picked up, our parts business has picked up [and] our response times have gotten better, which has generated more conversation and more new-build leads. The right things are happening.”

A contributing factor to the growth these OEMs are experiencing is a variety of tech trends operators are now taking advantage of. More producers are utilizing sonar technologies and automation, and they’re looking to dig deeper to capitalize on untouched mineral reserves.

Seeing through sonar

Within the last decade-plus, the introduction and continued development of sonar changed dredging. The technology allows operators to see where they’re dredging, how deep they are, how close they are to permitted limits, and more.

Rohr-Idreco, for example, provides customers with this information through its Eyes Underwater technology.

“You can pre-program whatever your permit limits are so that the dredge operator can’t over-dig your slopes, leave material behind or dig holes where they’re not supposed to,” Crowe says. “You can preload mine plans [and] geologic data so you have an idea of what your product mix is going to be. It’s a pretty powerful tool.”

Prior to sonar becoming widely available, Crowe says operators were dredging blind.

“It was absolutely a game-changer,” Crowe says. “You were completely reliant on operator feel. Your operators had to understand the vibrations of the machine, the slack of the cables and the lean of the machine, whatever type of machine it happened to be.”



DSC Vision, available since 2019, is another sonar option available to producers. Johnson says DSC Vision has been in high demand of late, to a point where the company is having a hard time keeping up.

According to Johnson, the package provides operators with a 160-degree vision arc from dead ahead of them to behind them, painting a picture of what’s going on underwater.

“You look at all of the operations that go on in the aggregate industry or in a sand and gravel plant,” he says. “[With] haul trucks, you’re operating with benefit of sight. Excavators, loaders, plants, plant equipment – [with] all of those things [that] are operating, you can see what’s going on. But with a dredge, if the dredge doesn’t dredge [material], none of the other equipment sees it. That’s the only piece of equipment you operate without sight.”

Crowe says the use of sonar is critical to move automation forward in dredging.

“You have to have that visibility, so the computer system can see what’s going on underwater to be able to communicate with the automation and operating system,” he says. “When you get to talking about clamshell dredges and dropping these big buckets 150 to 200 ft. underwater, you certainly don’t want to drop it into a hole that you’re at risk of burying it in a cave.”

Jack Kopanski

About the Author:

Jack Kopanski is the Managing Editor of Pit & Quarry and Editor-in-Chief of Portable Plants. Kopanski can be reached at 216-706-3756 or jkopanski@northcoastmedia.net.

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