New report shows dredging is competitive and growing

Cashman Dredging & Marine Contracting has been contracted to perform maintenance dredging at the Port of Baltimore.
Cashman Dredging & Marine Contracting has been contracted to perform maintenance dredging at the Port of Baltimore.
Cashman Dredging & Marine Contracting has been contracted to perform maintenance dredging at the Port of Baltimore.

The U.S. dredging industry is “fiercely competitive” and growing, according to The Mike Hooks Report, which details the latest trends in the U.S. federal dredging market.

The Mike Hooks Report: An Analysis of the FY22 U.S. Federal Dredging Market was authored by Michael Gerhardt, senior director of government affairs at Mike Hooks, LLC, the Louisiana-based dredging and marine contractor. 

Every year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) partners with American Maritime to identify and dredge projects across the country along the nation’s inland waterways, coastal channels, ports, and harbors. 

According to the Corps, dredge companies across the country have moved more than 200 million cubic meters of material from federal projects enabling ports and rivers to handle more traffic, including containerships, tankers, towboats, and other critical vessels. 

The dredged material is also used for beneficial purposes, with the USACE using at least some of the material from over half of all projects in 2022 to support environmental restoration efforts and other initiatives.

In fiscal year 2022, a total of fifty-two Jones Act dredging companies were awarded federal dredging contracts. The Report also shows that many of these companies have been small American businesses, over the past ten years. 

“This indicates a thriving and competitive marketplace where numerous companies vie for government projects,” according to the paper.  

“What’s particularly striking is that, for 72 percent of the contracts, the private sector industry’s winning bid came in lower than the Independent Government Estimate, saving taxpayers millions,” it concluded. 

“The cumulative result of this fierce competition was substantial, with the industry saving the federal government and, by extension, American taxpayers a staggering $670 million in fiscal year 2022 alone.” 

Dredging Contractors of America CEO & Executive Director William Doyle attributed the low costs to the number of companies engaged in the bidding.

“These companies fiercely compete for each job,” said Doyle. “They are also very successful entrepreneurs. Each company has a team of innovators, engineers, technicians, and professionals who wake up every day trying to find a better way to do a job and get more out of a piece of machinery or designing a new tool in-house that will give them a competitive advantage.” 

Dredging awards “are public – so the losers on a particular project know what that price point is – and next time around they’ll be ready,” said Doyle.

In total 59 projects came in under budget by more than 10 percent than estimated, with 27 projects costing more than 25 percent less than expected, and 15 projects achieving budget reductions of over 40 percent. 

Some examples of the major Corps of Engineers dredging contracts awarded in 2023 follow:

• Great Lakes Dock and Dredge Co. LLC – The Houston-based company was awarded a $11 million firm-fixed-price contract for bay and bar channel dredging. 

Bids were solicited via the internet with two received. Work will be performed in Morgan City, La. with an estimated completion date of February 15, 2024. 

• Marinex Construction Inc. – Last June, the USACE announced that it had awarded the Charleston, S.C. company a $26 million firm-fixed-price contract for inner harbor maintenance dredging at the Port of Savannah, Ga.

• Cashman Dredging & Marine Contracting – The Corps of Engineer’s Baltimore District contracted with the company for maintenance dredging work in Baltimore, Md. 

According to the Corps, the project consists of maintenance dredging approximately 1,400,000 cubic yards from the deep-draft federal navigation channels serving the Port of Baltimore. The contract with the Quincy, Ma. firm is valued at $29.1 million. 

• Callan Marine – In May, Callan Marine received a $9,430,000 firm-fixed-price contract for dredging services. 

Dredging work is to be performed in Galveston, Tx., with an estimated completion date of March 8, 2024. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston, is the contracting agent.

• The Dutra Group – The San Rafael, Ca.- based dredging and marine construction contractor was awarded a $67.5 dredging contract from the USACE to perform hopper or mechanical dredging work, as well as “potential clean-up” operations in Norfolk, Va.