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Top Three Challenges in Sustainable Marine Construction

By Adesh Ramnarine, Associate Project Director at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC)

 

At the Red Sea Project, we are working in an extremely sensitive ecological environment with an abundance of wildlife, and it is our responsibility to safeguard this natural environment. However, with that responsibility comes an array of challenges: calculating conversation value, adapting marine construction techniques, and traveling vast distances.

Before construction even began, we partnered with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) to deliver an ambitious Marine Spatial Planning simulation (MSP) to map out conservation areas at our site. The entire destination is divided into grids, and each grid was given a conservation value. This process was extremely demanding but as a result, only 22 of more than 90 islands in our archipelago will be developed. The key nesting islands of the endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle have also been designated as no-development zones – a total of nine islands.

However, that is not all we do to protect our ecosystems. In order to ensure that there is as minimal disruption as possible to marine habitats, we have also adapted our marine construction techniques. Night-time working is minimized where possible in order to preserve the extremely sensitive ecological environment of coral, nesting birds, nesting turtles and other species. This helps to reduce noise and light disturbance above and below water to avoid confusing the wildlife. While we work during the day, we always maintain vigilant visual inspection in the water for turtles and other mega-fauna to avoid potential collisions.

As we can only work in the daytime, this of course has an impact on the schedule of construction, as does the routes selected for deliveries of manpower and machinery to our islands. It takes a minimum of five hours to sail a loaded rock barge from the coastguard jetty and 16 hours to sail from our mainland north jetty to our other key development sites.

These routes are not selected for their speed, but to minimize impact on the environment. To save time elsewhere, we must be extremely efficient with the loading, sailing full, offloading, and sailing empty cycle with little room for errors or breakdowns.

Despite the challenges we face in the pursuit of our ambitions to lead the way in sustainable marine construction, we are pleased that progress is well ahead of schedule, with 4.5km of 6.2km of the causeway construction and 4 of 6 construction jetties completed so far.