Van Oord: The Leader in Maritime Hydraulic Engineering

Interview with Dirk im Sande, Managing Director of Van Oord Wasserbau GmbH

Van Oord Hydraulic Engineering Coastal Protection, Land Reclamation, Energy Security
Coastal protection, land reclamation, energy security – Van Oord keeps an eye on the future

Dredging at the coast and installing facilities for offshore energy. Wresting land from the water while ensuring the sea cannot easily claim it back. This is the bread and butter of Van Oord, making them a global player to be reckoned with.

Climate change has now moved beyond mere theory and countries and regions with low sea levels must prepare for the future.

155 Years of Experience in Maritime Engineering

Hardly any country has optimized these preparations over the decades as much as the neighboring country of Holland, where Van Oord originated 155 years ago and was prominently involved in major projects related to Dutch coastal protection, dike construction, and land reclamation, especially in the 20th century.

Dirk im Sande, Managing Director of Van Oord Marine Construction GmbH
Dirk im Sande, Managing Director of Van Oord Marine Construction GmbH

This growth was boosted in the early 2000s from the Middle East, where Van Oord made coastal engineering for tourism in Dubai possible – including the famous Palm Island, which is on the bucket list of many Northern Europeans. Today, Van Oord, still a family business, can look back on generations of maritime engineering, employs more than 5,000 people worldwide, and has a presence in Hamburg as well.

Van Oord Hydraulic Engineering Water Injection Dredging
Van Oord also deploys large equipment in waterways, here for a water injection dredging
Van Oord Hydraulic Engineering Dredging Works
In the transitional technology of gas, Van Oord is on board to take on pipeline and dredging works, such as in Brunsbüttel

Dirk im Sande, responsible as managing director for the hydraulic engineering department, is an engineer himself, a former technical director in the company, and primarily a true child of the coast, having been born on Borkum. And this is evident when he passionately discusses the activities of Van Oord: "We have two main pillars. On the one hand, classic maritime infrastructure with dredging, so coastal protection, ports, waterways. Then there's Offshore Energy. This includes wind power, but also infrastructure support for energy sources, like pipeline landfalls, or LNG terminals as a transition technology, as in Brunsbüttel or Wilhelmshaven."

On the agenda: Major future topics

Thus, it's major future topics that Van Oord has on its agenda. And they require state-of-the-art equipment and heavy machinery. "A wide range of dredging equipment, extremely powerful pumps and engines – that's a given for such work," explains Dirk im Sande. "But all this goes along with our own fleet of ships with the appropriate equipment, for example, for laying cables, or cranes for installations. Our installation ship Boreas, currently under construction for building offshore wind farms worldwide, will be the largest of its kind and is already designed to operate with methanol."

Van Oord Water Construction Port in Hamburg
The port in Hamburg is a familiar playground for dredging works by Van Oord
Van Oord Water Construction Safety
A clear focus at Van Oord: safety - for the environment and for the employees

It's no wonder, then, that Van Oord is also throwing its hat into the ring, for example, to participate in the Fehmarnbelt crossing, where the tendering process is currently starting.

Aside from prestigious large-scale projects, regular maintenance, coastal protection and soil improvement measures are naturally also core business for Van Oord, especially in the north of Germany, on the Elbe, in the German ports and waterways. And right on their doorstep, the company's activities in terms of environmental protection are naturally scrutinized very closely.

"A tremendous amount has happened," reports Dirk im Sande. "For example, dredging material accumulates, of course. But in doing so, we are always striving to have it reused not far from our working area, for instance, to make the beaches on the islands wider again or for coastal protection measures also on the Elbe, in the foreland of the dykes." Being a true child of the coast, one can tell that these statements by the managing director of Van Oord Wasserbau GmbH are not mere lip service.

Van Oord Offshore Wind Farm Construction
Fixed part of the Van Oord fleet: The ship Aeolus for offshore wind farm construction
Van Oord Water Construction WattHub
WattHub: The innovation project for trucks, construction, and heavy machinery on the A15 in the Netherlands focuses on renewable energy

Partnership, Knowledge Exchange, and Innovation

After all: the human factor. This is highly valued at the family-owned company Van Oord, where, by the way, all ships are still sailed under the Dutch flag. "I have a close-knit team of 25 experts, and there's a real sense of connection. That radiates outward toward customer business." Connection is also established over distance today, for example, through a proprietary app that directly communicates work assignments and progress, whether from Singapore or offshore from the North Sea. "Everyone in the company learns from this knowledge transfer, and the customers know that progress is being made," Dirk im Sande explains.

And the next few years? The managing director also sees them in the light of resource-conserving innovation. "On the A15 in the Netherlands, we are working on the Watthub, a terminal for trucks, construction and heavy machinery, operated solely by renewables. And of course: we ourselves are working hard to reduce our own CO2 footprint and have committed to achieving Net-Zero status by 2050."