Reference article 05/2014

Sand is money

Continuous processing of scanned terrain data in Germany's first deep-water port


Exceptional projects require exceptional methods. The first German deep-water port, Jade Weser Port, demonstrates this: the necessary water depth for large container ships had to be created and maintained. With AutoCAD® Civil 3D® and specific advice from UDS, planners and operators can determine the positions precisely, the dredger operators can see exactly where they have to remove how much material, and the administration can calculate to the cent.


Geo Ingenieurservice
Kutterstraße 3
26386 Wilhelmshaven

Phone: 04421 / 917 87-0

Before the first German deep-water port, the JadeWeserPort (JWP), was ready for the large container ships in 2012, there was a lot to do above and below water. The fairway, access road and port basin had to be dredged to a depth of 20 meters. Together with two sand extraction points, the excavated material was sufficient to build the foundations of the new port terminal, which was almost 1.8 kilometers long and 650 meters wide. Today, the port area is more or less complete. However, this does not apply to the land under water. Here, the water depth has to be continuously checked and corrected if necessary. This means that both the engineering office, which is responsible for surveying and dredging, and the system house, which supplies software, training and consulting, are literally kept in the boat.

Huge amounts of data

Surveying the terrain below the water level is complicated enough. The measured values then have to be compared with the planning data. And finally, the information on where and how much ground is to be removed has to be communicated to the dredger operators in an "understandable" way. It is important to move exactly the right amount of sand under the water, as billing is based on cubic meters. The surveying office - Geo Ingenieurservice from Wilhelmshaven - uses a multibeam method to measure the harbor floor under water. With the help of a multibeam sonar, the bottom is scanned from the ship in a close-meshed grid - depending on the depth of the water and the task, up to 100 points per m² are recorded. The scanned values are then output in a 1x1 m grid. Even then, there are still several million depth data points that need to be processed.

UDS - a pioneer under water

The way from this quantity of points to usable information is via the AutoCAD® Civil 3D® software. In order to make optimum use of this solution, the Geo Ingenieurservice team involved the Hamburg-based system house UDS Urbane Datensysteme GmbH in the project at an early stage. UDS was familiar with the challenge - the cities of Hamburg and Lübeck had already used their expertise. "We are pioneers in underwater projects," says UDS Managing Director Roman Börnchen. "In recent years, we have acquired the knowledge required to develop and process terrain models from underwater data."

Consistent use of data 

The aim of the IT project was to achieve consistent data processing. With as little manual intervention as possible, it should be possible to transfer the terrain data captured by the multi-beam system to AutoCAD® Civil 3D®, calculate a digital terrain model from it and make it available to all those involved in the project so that they can continue working with it. 

UDS helped to develop an optimal data structure for this. The data had to be available as measuring points, as a map and as numerical values for billing. This also required customization work: UDS programmed tools for data evaluation. Six employees at Geo Ingenieurservice and a further four employees at the operator and client were then trained in the operation of the software. The UDS team is still in close contact with the users - whether there are questions about operation or whether new ideas need to be implemented. 

Saving time and money 

Geo Ingenieurservice worked with AutoCAD® Civil 3D® from the very beginning of the planning process. This meant that a digital, three-dimensional target model was always available. The current data of the harbor ground, which is regularly measured, is compared with this model. Computers are installed on the dredgers so that the dredger operators can see exactly where and how much sand needs to be removed or added. At the same time, the engineering office can use this data alone to determine the quantities to be moved. The users do not even notice that this is not "actually" a function of AutoCAD® Civil 3D®. They did not need to install any additional software and did not have to transfer the measurement data from one software to another: their program determines the quantities and stores them in REB format, i.e. in accordance with the rules of electronic construction accounting. As a result, everyone involved in the project had a uniform, verifiable and legally compliant billing basis that can be processed by all billing programs. This transparency pleases the public sector and taxpayers, who are ultimately paying for this ambitious project. 

"Of course, we are also active above ground in this project," says Roman Börnchen. The entire port plan for the operating company was developed with the help of AutoCAD® Civil 3D® thanks to UDS. "Whether warehouse, railroad or highway connection - all civil engineering projects were planned with the same software. As a result, the operators now have end-to-end documentation."

The best technology: BIM

AutoCAD® Civil 3D® is particularly suitable for such projects: The software uses so-called BIM technology. BIM stands for Building Information Modeling. This means that all information about a building or structure (roads, bridges, railroads, terrain) is combined in a single digital model. Changes at one point are automatically updated throughout the entire model, and all evaluations - plans, lists, maps, etc. - contain the correct information.
For Jens Roschke, the authorized signatory of Geo Ingenieurservice, both the AutoCAD® Civil 3D® software and the software company UDS are indispensable partners: "Only in this partnership were we able to implement the developer's specifications: a maximum of 24 hours must pass from the underwater measurement to the standard-compliant and test-compliant preparation of the data." 

New challenges await  

There is a good chance that the deep-water port of JWP will return to top form if the economy continues to recover. UDS will remain on board even then - with tasks on land and under water. "The demands are increasing," says Roman Börnchen. "Comparing files was yesterday. Today, data should be available online on mobile devices, preferably in real time. We are ready for this." Facility management will play an important role alongside underwater surveying: Whether it's simulating logistics processes, managing real container data and their positions or "normal" maintenance and repair work - UDS software and services allow processes to be tested, planned and controlled in advance. Duplication of work is eliminated, errors are avoided and operators can continue to reduce their costs.

Scroll to main content