Van Oord: 'Consistent sustainability goals across Europe would help us enormously'

Van Oord is working hard to make its often heavy equipment, such as excavators and large dredgers more sustainable. However, to accelerate the pace international cooperation and shared sustainability goals are crucial.

Making all those machines and vehicles more sustainable is an important part of the company's ambition to be completely CO2 neutral by 2050. Substantial investments are therefore being made in emission-free equipment used both in the Netherlands and internationally. Van Oord has purchased three trailing suction hopper dredgers that run on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), as well as a green cable-laying vessel, hybrid water injection vessels and a jack-up ship that can run on methanol.

Dick van den Heuvel is business development manager at marine contractor Van Oord. He explains that Dutch contracting authorities are frontrunners in terms of integrating sustainability in their tenders.

“In the Netherlands, governments are our principal clients. When it comes to sustainability goals, they provide a fairly stable dot on the horizon. Internationally, this is not yet the case everywhere. Real international cooperation is needed to align this. For example, it would help us enormously in making our activities more sustainable if roughly the same sustainability targets were applied across Europe.”

Feasible, scalable and affordable

According to van den Heuvel, a good network is indispensable to increase that tempo internationally. Such a network already exists in the Netherlands; Van den Heuvel was one of the founders of the Emission-free Infrastructure Network. In the network infrastructure companies, governments and suppliers work together to take the use of emission-free equipment to the next level.

“Feasible, scalable and affordable” is how he sums it up. “A lot is already technically possible, so you have to scale that up to make the equipment increasingly more affordable. Bringing cranes to the Netherlands and converting them from diesel to electric makes those machines two to three times more expensive. A significant increase in scale makes production lines for electrical equipment possible. That is why the network has launched an initiative to jointly purchase zero-emission machines, also with parties that are not affiliated with the network. Such actions may be feasible for individual companies , but they will only become scalable and affordable if we work together.”

Long-term prospects

For Van Oord, the long-term perspective counts when it comes to making dredging activities more sustainable. In this market, large and heavy ships are used. The prospect of stable work over a longer period makes that step towards sustainability a lot easier to take, according to van den Heuvel, as the work helps to recoup the investments made in emission-free equipment.

“In addition to the international cooperation already mentioned, this also requires a government that takes charge and offers perspective. Many companies that are interested in becoming more sustainable need precisely those cards on the table to be convinced. And contracting authorities can do that, because they know what their sustainability goals are. They should therefore announce as early as possible when contracts will be put out to tender that require work with zero-emission equipment. The market can then respond much better to this than is currently the case.”

A series of projects

All in all, van den Heuvel believes that much can be gained if all parties can offer each other more certainty and clear prospects: “The infrastructure market is very suitable for this, with many long-term projects or series of projects. Take the dyke improvements: these programmes cover a period of decades. And that offers precisely the long-term perspective that can induce companies to invest in emission-free equipment, because they have the certainty that their investment can also be earned back.”

Source: infrasite