Interview: Lasse Petterson, President & CEO of Great Lakes Dredge & Dock
(Article initially revealed in Sept/Oct 2023 version.)
Petterson has not solely revitalized the U.S.’s largest dredging firm – he’s made it a frontrunner in worker security and a rising presence in offshore wind.
Let’s begin with you – your background and schooling. What attracted you to the maritime trade?
I’m a U.S. citizen, however I used to be born in Bergen, Norway and grew up navigating my father’s 22-foot, wood, one-cylinder diesel-engine boat within the fjords surrounding the city. So love of the ocean was in my blood from the start. I graduated from the Norwegian University of Technology with a B.S. after which an M.S. in Engineering and was the primary in my household to earn a college diploma.
During this time the oil fields within the North Sea had been being developed, and that’s the place I began my profession.
Tell us about that. When did you come to the U.S.?
I spent the primary 9 years of my profession at Norwegian Contractors, an offshore oil and gasoline platform EPC contracting firm that was purchased by Aker, after which 10 years at Aker Maritime in varied government and operational positions. I got here to the U.S. in 1999 as President for Aker, Inc. Since then, I’ve labored for each U.Okay. and U.S. oil and gasoline contracting corporations within the U.S. till I used to be named Chief Executive Officer of GLDD in May 2017. I’ve served as a member of our Board since December 2016.
GLDD has an extended and illustrious historical past relationship again to 1890 and Chicago’s Columbian Exposition. Can you give us a short overview of that journey and the way it turned one of many world’s largest dredging corporations?
After constructing a lot of the maritime infrastructure within the Great Lakes throughout our early historical past, we moved outdoors the Great Lakes for the primary time in 1910 to assist deepen Boston Harbor after which New York Harbor and haven’t seemed again. Our specialty as the most important dredging firm within the U.S. is the bigger and extra advanced tasks involving port deepening and coastal rehabilitation as we have now constructed world-class vessels and world-class engineering groups to finish these tasks.
Historically, we’ve been instrumental in constructing and sustaining the U.S. navigation system. We’ve been concerned each time a deepening has been required, from 20 ft to 40 ft to 50 ft, and now to 54 ft, so when you’re in search of expertise and experience on soils and environmental circumstances within the waterways, come to GLDD. Our diversified organizational information is among the essential belongings that units us aside.
We have individuals who’ve been dredging for 35–40 years. They know all of the ports, all of the navigation channels on the East and Gulf Coasts just like the again of their hand. So once we’re bidding for brand new tasks, we’re best-positioned to tackle these jobs and environments that require advanced planning and execution.
How necessary is the price range of the Army Corps of Engineers for GLDD’s enterprise? Have the federal Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law additionally benefited the corporate?
We have a powerful relationship with the Corps, and our success is tied to their success. Their price range has been robust in recent times and, though the IIJA and BIL offered vital funding, we largely concentrate on the Corps’ annual appropriations, which have to be strong and constant to take care of and improve the nation’s inland waterways. That permits us to construct the workforce and tools capability wanted to fulfill its wants.
Ironically, though we in addition to others within the U.S. dredging trade have been constructing added dredge capability in recent times, we’ve discovered the Corps’ program to be restricted and are actually beginning to rationalize our fleet, together with scrapping older dredges, to right-size what we consider is an overbuilt trade at this level.
Does GLDD have a global presence too?
GLDD has labored internationally for over 40 years, and we consider this expertise has made us a greater firm as all of our senior managers have realized the way to work in various conditions. The worldwide tasks current particular challenges that make us smarter once we do our day-today enterprise within the U.S. and permits us to focus on our world-class security tradition, workforce and fleet. Currently, the worldwide market is down and fairly difficult, so we preserve a relentless eye on different components of the world in search of alternatives that match us.
GLDD’s order backlog at present stands at $1.1 billion, a report. Tell us about a number of the main tasks at present deliberate or underneath manner. What is the combination between authorities and personal sector work?
We have an excellent combine of personal (LNG) work in Brownsville and Port Arthur, Texas; non-Corps work for port authorities like Houston and the Port of Virginia; and Corps deepening, upkeep and coastal tasks and non-Corps coastal tasks for purchasers in North Carolina and Florida. We nonetheless have extra capability and so are pushing for the Corps to proceed its improved bidding report in future months and years.
Dredges are actually monster machines, and GLDD has a number of the largest. Tell our readers in regards to the completely different sorts of dredges. How are they named?
There are three major varieties of dredging tools within the GLDD fleet: cutter suction, trailing suction hopper and mechanical dredges. These are supported by auxiliary vessels and tools to organize materials for excavation, transport dredged materials and energy the fabric via hydraulic pipelines.
Our home dredging fleet is deployed constantly across the East and Gulf Coasts and inland rivers. The mobility of the fleet permits the corporate to reply to adjustments on demand. We frequently assess the challenges and alternatives accessible. We improve and broaden our dredging fleet as markets dictate and incorporate the newest and most progressive applied sciences. We aggressively pursue a program of preventive upkeep, which is mirrored within the lengthy lifetime of most of our tools in addition to the low degree of unscheduled downtime.
We get pleasure from naming the vessels, and right here custom applies. We identify our hopper dredges after islands, our cutters after states, our multi-cats after capes and, much less colorfully, we identify our clamshell dredges by quantity. Our new offshore wind vessel required us to assume a bit, and we’ve determined to call these vessels after nationwide parks, taken from an environmentally pleasant renewable vitality theme, so the primary one shall be named Acadia!
What different vessels does GLDD personal and function?
Most of our vessels are tied to both dredging or dredging help, so we don’t keep a fleet that has different functions. I want to spotlight our new Multi-Cats Cape Hatteras and Cape Canaveral, which have been constructed solely for the aim of defending our staff whereas working offshore. This offers them a platform to work that’s way more secure and safer than what we’ve historically required.
Give us an thought of the scope of those operations. How a lot is a cubic yard of fabric and what number of cubic yards do you usually cope with in dredging and deepening operations? How a lot does a vessel carry?
As an instance, our hopper dredge Ellis Island has a capability of 15,000 cubic yards, which suggests it may carry as a lot as 1,500 truckloads in a single load.
The firm just lately moved from its long-time HQ in Chicago to Houston. What was the technique behind that, and what number of different areas does the corporate have?
Relocating our company places of work to Houston from Oak Brook, Illinois places us nearer to key regional clients and new markets, particularly alongside the Gulf Coast and Mississippi River, the place we’ve future main tasks and count on to tackle extra work.
The relocation additionally stems partially from altering trade dynamics because the dredging market has shifted from northern Illinois and the Great Lakes to work alongside the Gulf Coast and Northeast and Southeast coastal areas. The transfer additional permits us to leverage our long-term relationships with the Center for Dredging Studies at Texas A&M University, Louisiana State University and different universities that characteristic coastal resilience and pure infrastructure initiatives. We do have a regional workplace in Jacksonville, Florida and within the Middle East.
GLDD was manner forward of the sport when it established its Incident and Injury-Free®? (IIF®?) security program again in 2006. How did that come about, and why is it so necessary to the corporate?
We started our IIF®? journey in 2005 with the problem to remodel our firm tradition from Operations and Safety to SafeOps. IIF®? is now the cornerstone of our group and drives our capability to carry out SafeOps with the mindset of creating it private, related and necessary. Our IIF®? dedication not solely guides us within the office but in addition in making protected selections whereas at house. We’re dedicated to offering a protected and wholesome working surroundings for all crew members and commerce companions.
What differentiates GLDD from the competitors? What makes it completely different?
We are a public firm and, as such, we have to develop and innovate. Our security tradition is one other distinguishing issue that makes us a extra skilled firm. Our monitor report of success, our dimension and our willingness to tackle probably the most troublesome tasks is what makes us completely different as nicely.
Two years in the past, GLDD established an Offshore Wind sector, which it regards as a “strategic growth area.” Tell us about that and the SRIV at present underneath development at Philly Shipyard.
Offshore wind farm developments are coming to the U.S. in a giant manner. The White House has set a goal of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind technology capability by 2030, which provides us, as an skilled marine firm, a superb alternative to be on the forefront of recent developments.
To capitalize on this chance, we signed a contract with Philly Shipyard to construct the primary U.S.-flagged, Jones Act-compliant subsea rock set up vessel (SRIV) – the Acadia. The vessel will service America’s rising offshore wind trade and is a necessary step towards constructing the marine infrastructure required for this new trade. Signaling the significance of the event, President Biden attended the steel-cutting for the Acadia at Philly Shipyard this previous July.
Offshore wind will play an necessary position within the transition to wash vitality, and we wish to play our half and add to our legacy of environmental duty. We have the skillset and expertise to provide us a giant leg-up on this market. Acadia is only the start.
The opinions expressed herein are the creator’s and never essentially these of The Maritime Executive.