Hydrography – growing in importance


International trade is booming, and shipping along with it. Given the ever growing quantity of shipments and the expansion of harbour locations, there is a corresponding increase in requirements for the secure maintenance of waterways and harbour basins.

In many of the world‘s largest harbours, appropriate hydrographic monitoring of suspensions accumulating as fluid mud, as well as sediments in the form of more or less consolidated silt, is a necessary requirement in order to keep dredging costs for maintaining a satisfactory nautical bottom[1] within commercially sensible limits.

Every year in Germany alone action taken to secure the prescribed water depth produces an accumulation of around 45 million cubic metres of dredged material, the disposal of which entails high financial and environmental costs. Accurately determining the nautical bottom allows for a considerable reduction in operating costs, since dredging work can be carried out more systematically and efficiently.

admodus® – solutions for cost-effective waterway management

Echo-sounding is an internationally recognised technique for establishing the depth of a body of water.

Dual frequency echo sounders such as the admodus®SONAR work with signals of differing frequency. Where there is a firm subsurface, both signals deliver identical readings for the depth of water, and in this case the readings correspond to the nautical bottom. However, if the results show greater variance this indicates the presence of sediment suspension: while the high frequency signal is dispersed at layers of low density, the low frequency signal penetrates through the suspended matter almost entirely, and is only reflected from deeper, more solid layers. Even though this technique succeeds in identifying accretions of low-viscosity suspended matter and fluid mud, it is not possible to determine the exact location of the nautical bottom. For this, an additional in situ analysis is required.

A method of analysis still frequently used, albeit one which is very time- and cost-intensive, is that of sampling combined with subsequent offline analysis in the laboratory. An innovative and significantly more cost-effective option is the highly accurate online characterisation of suspensions and sediments achieved using the admodus®USP pro depth-profiling probe. The probe is lowered from the vessel, and can thus carry out realtime measurement of the density profile of the layers through which it penetrates, as well as record other parameters of rheological value. With the help of this profile, the nautical bottom[2] can be established on the spot and with great accuracy.

[1] The nautical bottom is defined as „the level where physical characteristics of the bottom reach a critical limit beyond which contact with a
ship‘s keel causes either damage or unacceptable effects on controllability and manoeuvrability“.
(Joint PIANC-IAPH Report on Approach Channels: A Guide for Design, Vol. 2, 1997)

[2] The nautical bottom can be defined area-dependently by a limiting density of approximately ρ=1.20 g/cm3. („Determining the Nautical Bottom“, Markus Jänen)