Tom Grant (L), salesman of H&E Equipment and Chris Coleman, owner of Carolina Marine Structures discuss the project.
Working around water is certainly not for everyone. It requires a special talent, a boatload of unique equipment and a sense of adventure in dealing with the unknown.
Both Wickberg Marine Contracting and Carolina Marine Structures have carved out a very successful niche for themselves handling dredging and other projects along east coast waterways using Doosan heavy equipment, including excavators and wheel loaders. The value of these machines, however, doesn’t stop where the water ends. Their versatility shines in many land applications, too.
Equipment Provides Dredging Options
During the past few years, Richard Wickberg, president of Wickberg Marine Contracting, has overseen a plan that moved the company beyond hydraulic dredging to include mechanical dredging and jetty construction. The plan was put into motion when Ted Faxon joined the company.
“My background was mechanical dredging, so when I came onboard the company saw a new opportunity and made a big investment in another long-reach excavator, a couple of dozers, an off-road dump truck and additional barges and boats,” Faxon said. “As a result of that commitment by ownership, we are the biggest ’back channel’ dredging outfit in the region.”
He points out that the multimillion-dollar business is equally divided between mechanical and hydraulic dredging, working for clients that include the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, municipalities, townships and marina owners.
“With four dredges, we are the only company in New Jersey that has more than one, and there are only two of those firms,” he said. “There are not a lot of people who have the experience to get into this business. It’s very expensive — especially buying equipment for the hydraulic process — and when you work on the water there are many unknowns. That makes people nervous.”
By offering both hydraulic and mechanical dredging services, Wickberg is able to provide the best option for each job.
Last year, for example, the company was hired by the New Jersey DEP to remove about 20,000 cubic yards of material from Twilight Lake in Ocean County. The original plan called for hydraulic dredging. Faxon, however, believed the mechanical method would be more cost-effective.
“I contacted the DEP, explained the job to them and we both agreed it would be impossible to do it hydraulically because of the limited space for the dewatering area,” he said. “We were the only contractor to get permission from the DEP prior to the bid date to mechanically handle the job. We are one of the few firms that are equipped to handle both types of dredging. That’s an advantage for us.”
Another advantage is their Doosan DX300LC SLR (super-long-reach) crawler excavator. The company used the machine, situated on a barge, to reach through the water and dig down to the original bottom of Twilight Lake, to remove excess sediment that had been deposited from a stormwater outfall pipe, as well as from several thousand cubic yards of sand left over from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The goal of the county was to enhance the aquatic use and health of the lake.
After using the DX300LC SLR excavator with a reach of 57 feet on several other dredging projects, Faxon raves about its efficiency.
“Dollar for dollar, it’s as good as any similar machine,” he said. “Our operators like the user-friendly features such as the quiet, comfortable cab with excellent visibility. Fast cycle times, superior fuel efficiency and reliability make the excavator very valuable.”
Another Doosan machine, a DX340LC excavator, handles some of the heavier lifting jobs. All of the Doosan machines were purchased from Hoffman Equipment.
“We will do most projects on the water — back channels, not ocean — that our equipment is capable of handling,” Faxon said. “The Doosan excavators we have added the past couple of years have helped expand our capabilities and opened the door to more work.”
Water Project Expert
When Chris Coleman started his second marine construction company 11 years ago, his approach to the business was decidedly different than his first trip around the water.
“My first company got so big that I was not even seeing my projects being built,” he said, speaking of the 200-employee organization he ran in Virginia. “I was sitting behind a desk, putting out fires and dealing with problems. This time I wanted to be out in the field operating machinery, doing the building and teaching my employees how to build these jobs properly.”
His new enterprise, Carolina Marine Structures, located in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, has grown into the largest marine contractor on the Outer Banks. Coleman and his 15 employees specialize in dredging, bridge and culvert projects, boat ramps, bulkhead piers and other water-related types of work.
A significant factor in his new approach was replacing large cranes with a pair of Doosan DX225LC SLR crawler excavators from H&E Equipment Services in Chesapeake, Virginia.
“I intended to purchase one machine, but when I demoed it and discovered the excellent pricing structure, I took two of them,” he said.
Aside from the cost, the economic impact of the excavators has proven very beneficial.
“If you take the operators out of the equation, I can put two excavators on the job for $400 a day,” Coleman said. “The crane costs $800 a day. Even if I have the crane on-site, I still need one excavator to do a lot of the work that the crane is unable to do. So, I am really adding only one additional excavator when I have two on the job. That’s just one example of how the two Doosan crawler excavators make me money.”
When the City of Chesapeake hired Carolina Marine Structures to install a bridge culvert, Coleman’s strategy of using his SLR excavator worked perfectly.
“Instead of having an expensive crane on-site the entire time, we put an excavator on each side of the existing bridge for all of our coffer dam work, excavation and bottom prep,” he said. “Other firms would most likely have estimated the job using a crane the entire time, waiting to use it a few times during a 100-day rental. We got by with renting a crane for 15 hours to set the 20-ton box culverts. I got it — and the expense — out of my hair as fast as I could. We were able to do most of our lifts with the excavator. When a job was a little too heavy for one, we used both of them working together to swing the precast concrete panels in place. These excavators are the real deal.”
When Coleman has a dredging job, in most cases one of his SLR excavators will be on a barge out in the channel and using a grading bucket to dig in the water. The other will be on an off-loading platform dumping material into trucks. Scow barges — flat-bottomed boats often used to haul bulk freight — go back and forth between the two machines.
He also has a Doosan DL250TC (tool carrier) wheel loader, which comes standard with a quick coupler to easily change attachments. That machine, equipped with a bucket, is an excellent complement to the excavators.
It’s not unusual to find the excavators and wheel loader working side by side on the same job and to see Coleman right there as well, operating one of the Doosan machines.
“I would rather be in the field than anywhere else,” he said. “That allows me to be the quality control guy on every job, and I think that really helps build the business.”
Visit doosanequipment.com and click on the Crawler Excavators link on the Products tab to learn more about Doosan crawler excavators and super long-reach models.
This story was repubished with permission from Doosan DoMore Magazine, Spring 2015 issue.