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The Planning of America's Largest Self-Propelled Hopper Dredge

Illustration Credit: A. Leal De La Torre—Proposal Sr. Graphic Designer

The making of a dredge is no simple feat, and the planning and design of the largest self-propelled trailing suction hopper dredge in the USA has certainly been no different. For more than a decade, the new vessel – which is set to be christened the FREDERICK PAUP – has been an inkling in the back of Henry Schorr’s mind.

Henry, Manson vice president and Gulf & East Coast dredge manager, has been in this industry for quite some time and has seen a fair number of new vessels join the fleets of American dredging companies. He joined Manson Construction Co. in 1999, just as the dredge BAYPORT was christened and put to work. He has helped get new cutterhead dredges – such as the LEONARD J – completed and out on the water, and even saw Manson’s current largest hopper, the GLENN EDWARDS, from planning through to completion.

From start to finish, the GLENN EDWARDS took around five years, with much of the vessel design happening simultaneously alongside construction. Since final delivery, it has been a highly successful investment. “After seeing how successful it was, we started proposing that we look at a second dredge,” Henry says. In 2008, Manson, led by Henry’s analysis, began planning for a bigger, better, and more efficient hopper.

“I’ve got to give Henry the credit of analyzing the dredging market and understanding the abilities that we needed based on what the market needed,” says Shawn Hillis, former vice president of equipment who is retiring at the end of 2020 after a 42-year career with Manson.

After ten years of analyzing and planning, in 2018 Henry and his team got the go ahead to engage with naval architect Hockema Whalen Myers Associates, Inc. (HWMA) to begin the design phase of the new dredge. This time would be different, though. “The GLENN EDWARDS was basically just a goliath version of previous dredges,” says Shawn. “The improvements for this dredge are going to be enormous.”

A ten-person Manson team, including Henry, Shawn, and Project Manager Jordan Brown, just to name a few, worked over every excruciating detail with HWMA to produce a complete and detailed design to be fully approved by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS).

Jordan, who prior to this assignment was engineering manager for Manson’s Gulf & East Coast dredging operations, describes months of day-long meetings between the equipment group, the project design team, and HWMA. They would discuss how the pieces and parts of the dredge fit, how it would be maintained in the future, the advantages and disadvantages of every proposed change, and, perhaps most informatively, the lessons learned from the GLENN EDWARDS.

“We tried to make substantial changes for the benefit of the dredge’s performance and the safety of the crew,” Jordan says. “I had not previously worked directly with the equipment department much until this project, but it is their experience with prior builds, vendors, and gear that helped drive the final design package.”

According to Shawn, many of the people involved in this project have a lot of longevity with the Company and have participated in creating several of the vessels in Manson’s fleet. “They wanted to make sure the changes they were contemplating were truly in the best interest of the dredge and the ability of the dredge and its crew to do their job,” Shawn says.

The chance to get input from everyone and see how everything interacts helped the team to cover all of their bases, Henry added. “We would sort out individual systems and determine the best approach to cover the downside risks and make sure we got the product we wanted out of it in the end.”

Some of the differences on the new dredge are due to regulatory requirements, but also improvements to the abilities of the dredge. The FREDERICK PAUP will be Manson’s first fully diesel-electric hopper dredge in the fleet, operating on only five diesel-electric engines as opposed to the 15 diesel engines on the GLENN EDWARDS. This makes it more efficient, more powerful, as well as more environmentally friendly, meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier 4 standards for air quality.

Other updates include changes to the drag arms that will make bringing them on board an automated process, meaning it is both quicker and safer for the crew. The move to electric motors also allowed flexibility in the design to improve areas near the drag arms. By placing a motor adjacent to the dredge pump we eliminated the need for an engine housing at the top. This creates safer conditions as there’s no longer need to spray service water over the driveshaft bearings which often freezes on deck.

Additionally, the vessel design incorporates in-hull passageways allowing crew to transit the vessel end-to-end without having to go over the top deck.

“I think it’s rare that a company like ours continues to design our own dredges and pumping methodology,” Shawn says. “The guys who are working on this actually know the job; they know the work. They’ve been on this equipment and they know what we actually need.”

After several iterations and nearly two years, the design phase of the FREDERICK PAUP is complete. Jordan Brown has been named project manager for the construction phase of the project, and a contract has been signed with Keppel AmFELS to complete the build at their Brownsville, Texas, shipyard by spring of 2023. “The construction timetable will be based on the shipyard’s capabilities, but we will see fewer complications since we have a fully completed design,” Henry says.

Going forward, Jordan, along with Brad Martin – incoming vice president of equipment – as well as Sean Hayden – the technical lead for the project, will be spending a lot of time in Brownsville over the next few years.

Jordan, who feels fortunate just to be a cog in the wheel of this project, is excited for the next phase. “A project of this size presents certain challenges, but this isn’t something we get to do every year and I am lucky to be a part of it,” he says. “I probably have another 20 to 30 years with Manson, so it will be really cool to help get this dredge delivered and then see it work throughout the rest of my career.”

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