THE FIRST Damen dredger to operate in Australia, a Trailing Suction Hopper Dredge (TSHD) 650, is currently being constructed by Damen Shipyards Group for Australian client Gippsland Ports.

In a January announcement, Damen said the client will use the dredger to maintain entry to the port of Lakes Entrance and the Gippsland Lakes system, in Victoria, which is used by recreational, fishing and supply vessels.

Currently, the client contracts a dredger annually, but after analysing the situation it became clear that there was a case for investing in their own vessel, Damen said.

“Having their own dredger will, over time, reduce the maintenance costs and ensure year round availability, for example in the event of weather related shoaling events.”

In December 2015, Damen was awarded the construction contract.

The vessel is currently under construction at Damen Yichang Shipyard in China and will be delivered in the third quarter of 2017, Damen said.

Damen sales manager Asia Pacific Vincent Maes said they made all the adaptations the client required to the standard TSHD 650 design.

One of the key adaptations to the design involved increasing the installed propulsion power to cope with the strong currents characteristic of the harbour’s entrance.

Capable of dredging to depths of 15 metres, the dredger will be built with self-emptying capabilities, with bottom doors for dumping and either bow connection or rainbow extraction for beach reclamation work.

In order to increase the vessel’s payload capacity when dredging sand with a high specific density, Damen will reduce the freeboard of the vessel and apply a dredge mark.

Gippsland Ports also selected an indication package to measure soil density.

This allows the suction pipe to be angled precisely for efficient operations.

The dredging process will be made even more efficient by the installation of the navigational dredging aid, NavGuard, indicating the area and quantity of substrate dredged.

In addition to this vessel, Damen is currently constructing five further TSHDs.

Gippsland Ports chief executive Nick Murray was pleased to have executed a contract with Damen.

“We are looking forward to delivery of our new TSHD in 2017,” he added.