When presenting its annual report, Van Oord said a major driver for the future is climate adaptation. The company wants to be a frontrunner in this, but also sees there are still a few hurdles to overcome before large-scale rollout is possible.

‘Climate adaptation is in our DNA,’ says dredging director Mark Roelofs at the Masterclass on climate adaptation organised by Van Oord on 13 March. ‘It matches what the environment and stakeholders want from us. In addition, it makes us attractive as an employer, it offers a future and there is work in it.’

According to Roelofs, rising sea levels put infrastructure under increasing pressure all across the globe. Roelofs: ‘Among other things, we will see more and heavier flooding, erosion of coast lines and salt water reaching further inshore thereby impacting agricultural land.’

Mark Roelofs during the masterclass.
Mark Roelofs during the Masterclass.

Who pays the bill?

Van Oord has a lot of solutions available to tackle such problems. ‘However, the issue we face in particular, is: Who pays the bill?’ says Roelofs. ‘Africa, for example, is not causing climate change, but it does suffer from the effects. And there are a lot of international funds and promises, but a hands-on approach is lacking. We are faced with long bureaucratic processes, while in terms of technology, great acceleration is possible.’

According to Roelofs, one of the things that could improve this, is if contractors would have direct access to funding, which currently isn’t the case. Although of course a contractor would have to be held accountable for how money is spent and for not driving up prices, this would allow for faster development, he says.

In addition, a turnaround is needed when it comes to environmentally friendly solutions. Roelofs: ‘Right now, environmentally friendly solutions are often appreciated, but ultimately, the lowest price is chosen. Moreover, internationally, sometimes certain knowledge and an understanding of the possibilities is lacking. At the same time, there is no level playing field, consider China, with its state subsidies.’

Also read: What Van Oord’s LNG dredger Vox Apolonia looks like up close

Too little money to coastal and river infrastructure

Programme manager climate adaptation at Van Oord, Reinout Viersma, also highlights the lack of money for coastal and river protection measures.

Viersma: ‘At the Paris Agreement, USD 100 billion was reserved for climate financing. So far, USD 17 billion has been spent on climate adaptation projects, but only three per cent of this amount, or USD 0.5 billion, went to coastal and river infrastructure. That is relatively little, given the urgency. So, more action is needed.’

Reinout Viersma says only USD 0.5 billion out of a USD 100-billion climate fund has gone to coastal protection.
Reinout Viersma says only USD 0.5 billion out of a USD 100-billion climate fund has gone to coastal protection.

Turning the tide

Van Oord tries to turn the tide by leading by example and through action coalitions with (local) partners and local governments. In this way, Van Oord hopes to increase awareness and support for environmentally friendly climate adaptation solutions.

Van Oord wants to do this by showcasing projects already executed to show what is already possible. Viersma names the Sand Motor* as an example. The first Sand Motor was installed along the coast of Delfland in the Netherlands. Later, the idea was exported to Bacton in England. Here, the project was funded through a private partnership.

*The Sand Motor means a surplus of sand is put into the natural system and is expected to be re-distributed along shore and into the dunes through the continuous natural action of waves, tides and wind. In this way mega-nourishment gradually induce dune formation along a larger stretch of coastline over a period of one or more decades, thus contributing to coastal safety against flooding over a longer period of time and giving less disturbance to the coastal ecosystem while creating opportunities for nature and recreation.

Other examples of projects are a coastal reinforcement project in Romania, where Van Oord will bring back seagrass. According to Viersma, it is the first time this is being done. In the Maldives, Van Oord was responsible for the second largest relocation of coral ever undertaken. Before spraying sand in a land reclamation project, about 70,000 coral colonies were relocated.

Viersma adds, however, that for a wider uptake: ‘We need to step out more, show what we are doing. These solutions must come to life and we need to bring customers into our narrative. Our network needs to be big enough. On the other hand, we also expect governments to step up.’

Also read: Van Oord back in the black in 2022

Having the knowledge needed

René Kersten, programme manager Ocean Health at Van Oord, finally points out that the company is now focusing on expanding its knowledge base. ‘We have pilot projects all over the world. We want to have the knowledge needed to offer support when it comes to climate adaptation projects as a frontrunner in the market. We want to realise scalable earning models and stand-alone solutions.’

Picture (top): Reinforcing the Dutch coast with the Sand Motor (by Van Oord).

Also read: Van Oord wins Millport flood protection contract