Dredging Vessels? We interview the Head of Dredging in the Suez Canal!

Today vessel automation has for You something special! We have a great guest: Ahmed Metwally Ali Abdelaleem. Ahmed is Head of the Dredging department in the Suez Canal. Therefore, he answers Vessel’s Automation a few questions. Dredging vessels are Ahmed’s place of expertise. For everyone related to the industry, the first chapter will be basics of basics. For experienced people, I highly recommend skipping directly to the interview, below!

What is the dredging?

Shortly, dredging is an operation of removing the sand, stones, or other material from the bottom of the water. It is used to reshape the waterline in port, bay, or canal. Another reason to use the dredger is to create a new coastline. For example Abu Dhabi or Dubai. Very often these two purposes of operations can be connected. Sand from the port can be used for enlarging the beach for tourists. For the professional dredging operation are used special types of vessels. Dredgers.

Dredgers are vessels with special equipment. The type of equipment depends on the environment in which they work. They operate with different technical solutions. You can find simple dredgers which just remove the stones. They look exactly the same as cranes. Sometimes You have even cranes on the barges. This is also a kind of dredging operation. Therefore, we will focus on the most popular and most efficient, and most popular solution.

Dredging vessels – Hopper Dredger

Hopper dredger vessel is a very simple and efficient unit. It works like a vacuum cleaner. By big water pumps, the dredger is sucking sand and water. At the same time, this mixture is transferred by the piping from the bottom of the canal to the system. Filters are splitting sand from water. Sand stays onboard or is going to the barge and water goes back to the sea.

Hopper Dredger https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Trailing-Suction-Hopper-Dredge-HAM-310_fig1_295080208

Dredging vessels – Cutter suction dredger

There is one major difference between Cutter dredger and hopper dredger. The Cutter dredger has installed a rotating cutter head. It is drilling the surface on the bottom of the sea. At the same time, pumps are sucking the sand with water.

Cutter dredger: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Cutter-suction-dredger_fig1_315684717

Here You can see how the cutter head is looking:

Cutter head: https://dscdredge.com/parts-express

As I introduce You the basic of the basics, it is time for the main point of this article!

Interview guest:

Mateusz Białas: Today we welcome Ahmed Metwally Ali Abdelaleem, an Engineer with almost 30 years of experience in dredging. He has a professional career from engineer onboard the dredger to Head of Dredging Department in Suez Canal. That’s impressive and I am really happy that I have a chance to talk with You.

Ahmed Metwally Ali Abdelaleem: Thanks for such a compliment. You are welcome to ask all the questions. I will reply personally not officially as this will need the procedure.

History of professional experience

Mateusz: That’s great. I like to keep vessel automation in the atmosphere between the engineers. So, Ahmed, one more time. It is a pleasure to have You here, at vessel automation. Can You Tell us something more, How about Your beginnings in the Maritime industry? Do You start directly in dredging operations?

Ahmed: Yes, I started my professional career directly with dredging operations. My first maritime job was on board the barge unloader/ Dredger. I was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt. Growing up in the port environment around me, helped me a lot. At sea, I have felt like I will be at home. As we both know sea life is tough, work at sea is very dangerous. Safety first all the time.

Alexandria: https://silkroaddreamtours.com/destinations/alexandria/

Maintenance of the Suez Canal by Dredging Vessels

Mateusz: Suez Canal has no easy environment around. Every stronger wind pushes the sand into the canal. How these factors are influence dredging operations in the Suez canal? There is a strict maintenance plan or You are more affected by other factors?

Ahmed: Geography is not the only factor affecting require maintenance of a canal. Another factor, even more, significant are the vessels and their propellers. During the rotation of the propeller, he creates their effect on the raise of the sea bed.


Ahmed: There are dredging plans for maintenance, enlargement, and deepening of the canal. This is continuous and dynamic to cover the whole surface of a canal. For instance, the Suez canal has 193Km (120miles). If You are finishing dredging the whole canal, then You have to start again.

According Ever Given

Mateusz: At vessel automation, I have posted the article about hybrid propulsion systems. This was directly after the accident of Ever Given. In my opinion, this size of vessels should be equipped with double propulsion or some kind of hybrid propulsion. For example Maersk Triple E class. What is Your opinion: Should classification societies increase the standards for the propulsion system, to introduce redundancy and increase maneuverability?

Ahmed: Hybrid propulsion or emergency propulsion can not be as a rule by the classification society. The rules cannot be changed due to one accident of “Ever Given”. We have to see the fact the inertia wedged the ship so deep with the bow.

Ever Given in Suez Canal

Mateusz: The size of ULCV is constantly growing. For example, the biggest ships are not matching into the Panama Canal already. How do You see the future of ULCV in the Suez Canal?

Ahmed: Dynamic planning for maintenance and enlarging of the Suez Canal is the key. That’s why we have to be ahead of the shipbuilding industry. On the other side are famous liners which are developing their fleets. For instance, they are adapting their strategy for the long term. Therefore, their plans have to match our development possibilities. We have to be mutual for the sake of world trade. In short, the key for all maritime industries is synergy.

Dredging vessels over the time

Mateusz: Technology is constantly developing. How big was the impact of new technology in dredging? Can You give an example of changes which You see over the past 30 years?

Ahmed: The changes over 30 years were huge. At the time when I have started, there was no PLC (Programmable Logic Controllers). There were no drives for motors, like for example the soft starters. I have a mechanical engineering background. In former times we have to control all equipment by hand. 30 years ago the operations were different. Today automation is changing the operation, sequence controlled processes by PLC are very handy.

Old engine room: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/310185493068345465/

Future of the dredging vessels

Mateusz: How do You see development of dredging operations during next 10 years?

Ahmed: In my opinion, the future of Dredging is heading fast towards Zero Emissions. All the development for the main power will continue. After that, they will adapt to the huge dredgers with zero-emission. Perfectly controlled and efficient.

Mateusz: Many thanks for You time! I wish You all the best!

Ahmed: You are welcome. All the best.

One more time, many thanks to Ahmed for this quick interview with solid details! Interviews with professionals will come as an integral part of the Vesselautomation.com If You don’t like to miss interviews with a specialist from maritime business, subscribe here:


  • Mateusz Białas

    Researcher of Autonomous and Remotely Controlled ships. Since 2014 in Maritime Industry. Experience gained at Ro-Ro, Ferry, Container, and Heavy Lifts, design of Navy Ships.

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Mohamed Metwally
Mohamed Metwally
3 years ago

Informative and professional

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