The Dutch and Belgian dredging industry: exploring the future

Increasing protectionism and differences in sustainability requirements and enforcement across countries challenge the competitive position of the Dutch and Belgian dredging sector. During the symposium ‘The Future of the Dredging Industry’ on 29 November in Rotterdam, a report was presented by Jan van den Ende, professor of Management of Technology and Innovation at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). The main conclusions of the report are that the dredging sector in the Netherlands and Belgium still has a strong international position, but should redefine how it sees competition and innovation in order to stay relevant in the future.

The report The Dutch and Belgian Dredging Industry: An Exploration of the Future indicates that several trends can strengthen the sector further: new demands for dredging, such as those resulting from global warming and coastal urbanisation, and the quest for sustainability. Despite this positive outlook, Chinese competition is coming up and must be expected to increase severely in the near future.

Research project leader Prof. Jan van den Ende says: “This industry report advises the sector to re-strengthen collaboration vertically as well as horizontally between parties. In addition, new business models such as servitisation, disruptive innovation, influx of knowledge from other sectors such as data analytics, and collaborating with start-up companies can rejuvenate the sector’s innovative potential. The national governments and European institutions can facilitate such actions by supporting innovative and sustainable projects, and by putting much more pressure on the creation of a level playing field internationally in this sector.”

About the symposium

In addition to the presentation of the report, historian Dr Joke Korteweg tried to clarify the strong geographical roots from the dredging cluster in the Netherlands and Belgium. Also, organisations such as Van Oord, Royal IHC and Rijkswaterstaat present their vision on the future of dredging.

After the break, a pitch debate was hosted between small innovative companies based in the Maritime Delta region. Moderator of the pitch debate, programme co-ordinator Edward Gilding said: “Our region, which runs from Maasvlakte 2 to Werkendam, is unique. It’s not only the home base of large, well-established Dutch dredging companies, but also has a rich supply of small innovative companies.” For example, the Delft-based company QLayers demonstrated how a ‘sharkskin’ coating can be applied on ships to reduce fuel consumption. In addition, OnBoard presented a platform solution for collecting and analysing information. Netics showed that dredging sludge is valuable material using dredged material to build constructions in a sustainable way. Taniq illustrated how they innovate production of dredging hoses.

The symposium ended with a panel discussion on innovation and cooperation in the sector. As a follow-up to the symposium, regional economic development organisation InnovationQuarter & Maritime Delta will organise two workshops on the themes digitalisation and sustainability in the dredging industry. These will take place beginning of February. It is already possible to express interest in these sessions through this link.


The study and the symposium are supported by Van Oord, DEME, Boskalis, Royal IHC, Damen Shipyards Group, MAN Energy Solutions and PON Power. The study was conducted by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) with advice from the Dutch Association of Dredging Contractors IADC, Maritime Delta, InnovationQuarter and Netherlands Maritime Technology (NMT). Maritime Delta, InnovationQuarter and Netherlands Maritime Technology were also responsible for the organisation of the symposium.

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.

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