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DREDGEWIRE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Chris Gunsten, Senior VP of Project Services & Fleet Engineering, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock

GLDD’s Cape Hatteras (Courtesy of GLDD)

Posted on October 10, 2023

GLDD recently launched the Cape Hatteras and the Cape Canaveral Damen 3013 Multicats, that were built at Conrad shipyard. DredgeWire sat down with Chris Gunsten, Senior VP of Project Services & Fleet Engineering to discuss their new Damen 3013 Multicats.

DW: Why did GLDD not build their own Multicats?

CG: Over many years GLDD has been exposed internationally via different mega projects in the Middle East, Europe and Australia, that have required the hiring in and use of Multicats, which are widely used in the international markets. In the early 2000’sGLDD engineered and built our own Multicat design, but unfortunately it ended up not meeting the requirements in the field as envisioned and the vessel never realized the envisioned potential.

DW: What was the decision for purchasing Multicats?

CG: When CEO Lasse Peterson joined the company, he brought a laser focus of making safety a priority, especially in reducing the man overboard issues, which were mostly related to pipeline installations in open water. This brought the Multicat option back into the discussion. GLDD studied our pipeline operations and determined that utilizing Multicats was safer and more productive vs. the current set up of anchor barge/tug alongside. By utilizing Multicats GLDD will be able to reduce the man overboard risks as the crew will have reduced exposure to transfers onto the pontoon tanks to turn these 1,200 lb. rings to lock in the ball and bell connections. They will now do that onboard the Multicats securely, and keep all team members safe, while working productively in higher sea states than we can currently. Further, the Multicats can move anchors for our cutter suction dredges more efficiently and safely than our current anchor barge operations. These are the two main points, safety & productivity that were the deciding factors in the choice of the investment.

GLDD has driven down our man overboard numbers down over 50% to single digits per year with a goal of zero and the Multicats are an integral part of that effort. Keep in mind the industry does not count all man overboard incidences like GLDD does. For example, if a worker falls off into the water from a pipeline connection pontoon tank, the industry does not keep track of this because the perception is that the worker will get collected out of the water immediately and most likely unharmed. However, while the likelihood of a bad outcome is low, the severity can be catastrophic and therefore we consider MOB’s as near-death event. GLDD’s policy is to prevent all man over boards and therefore we do keep track of all incidences., conduct investigations and identify corrective actions after each event to help prevent future MOB’s from occurring.

DW: Do the Multicats provide any efficiency savings?

CG: Yes, projects typically have a shore-basedsupport crew with a cherry picker to pick up heavy loads and teams to organize any other items that need to be transported offshore via tug and barge. The Multicats improve upon that model while reducing the resources needed because their crane can load and unload all the heavy items onto its deck onto the dredge; smaller items can be containerized/palletized ahead of time an loaded any time of day without a full shore-based crew. This also reduces manual handling of heavy and bulky items and the reduction some of the shore equipment. This leads to cost savings by the elimination of large spread of tugs, pontoons, and derrick barges.

DW: Why did GLDD choose Damen as their vendor?

CG: GLDD looked at multiple Multicat vendors but the decision to choose Damen as a supplier of the Multicats was due to GLDD’s experience with them on our international projects. Additionally, the Damen Multicats are a proven product worldwide and with a good reputation. GLDD did some customization of the Multicats to meet all regulatory requirements for the U.S. market, but for the most part it is a Damen design. These are the first Jones Act compliant Damen Multicats to be built in the U.S.

DW: Will Damen be providing the training on the Multicats?

CG: Luckily, we have a team that already has good operational experience with Damen and other Multicats based on our previous international experience. However, Damen and another European operator will be providing additional training in the field to our teams as they learn to operate the cranes, deck equipment and some other important safety features. We expect to have the first Multicat, Cape Hatteras, working at our upcoming dredge project in Tampa.

GLDD’s Cape Hatteras (Courtesy of GLDD)

DW: Would you like to make any comments about Conrad Shipyard?

CG: We have built over 25 hulls with Conrad over our recent history. This includes multiple scows, derrick barges, hopper dredges, (Galveston Island 6,500 cu.yds &for delivery in 2025 Amelia Island). So, we have a great relationship with Conrad and the equipment they have built for us have functioned well and have been happy to partner with them. GLDD is looking forward to celebrating the launch and success of these two Multicats.

DW: Did the project come in on budget?

CG: Yes, it came in on budget and except for some unavoidable supply chain issues delivery was as expected. We had an issue with a European crane vendor, but we were able to sort it out and stay on budget.

DW: Does GLDD contemplate adding additional Multicats to the fleet?

CG: In principle yes. We have high hopes that these vessels will help us maintain our competitive edge by increasing efficiency vs. competitors who are working still in the anchor barge & tug world. As the Multicats prove themselves after joining our fleet it will make it easier to justify the expense to support additional Multicats as part of our overall fleet renewal process.

DW: Chris,thank you for your time and wish you and GLDD much success.

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