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What is Canal Dredging and Why Is It Important?

A canal dredging definition is simple – it involves the removal of sediment from the bottom of a body of water. By removing these items from the canal via dredging operations boats can more easily navigate the UK’s waterways.

Additionally, removing materials like built-up sediment, mud, rubbish and other debris can improve water quality. As a result, plant and animal ecosystems in the canals can more easily flourish. In a nutshell, this is why canal dredging is important – it helps those who use the canals for business and pleasure purposes on a daily basis, while also safeguarding the UK’s natural environment.

Canal Dredging UK

The question of how to dredge a canal can only be accurately answered by specialist waterway and civil contractors, including The Rothen Group (TRG). We work on behalf of the Canal River Trust, Environment Agency and private waterway owners to perform this vital service that keeps canals and rivers navigable, and their natural ecosystems intact.

Indeed, no two types of project in this area are the same, which is why dredging contractor expertise is necessary. Services can involve maintenance dredging on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis in specific areas prone to debris and sediment build-up. This can include around bridges and channels feeding into the canal, as well as widened areas used to turn boats, also known as winding holes.

Alongside this, more sporadic main-line maintenance dredging may take place, which involves working on a stretch of canal mile-by-mile over a longer period. In both instances, this usually requires the use of excavators either on the water or the canal bank to collect debris from the canal bed.

The cost of dredging canals can vary depending on the amount of equipment used, and the complexity of the project. For example, the width and shallowness of a canal may necessitate narrower boats and pontoons, with shallow drafts. The structural integrity of the canal bank may also make using land-based canal dredging equipment impossible, so a different approach may be needed.

Consequently, specialist marine engineering companies like TRG use multiple types of canal dredging equipment to keep the canals clear. This includes a fleet of modular pontoons and floating dredger boats for use on the water, and long-reach excavators that can work from the bankside.

Canal Dredging Equipment

The canal dredging equipment we use includes specialist machine transporter and operating pontoons, available in both narrow beam and wide beam varieties, and crane barges. TRG pontoons are fitted with hydraulic power packs that operate four stability legs, creating an extremely stable working platform. Leg extensions can also be added for working in deeper waters.

Transported to the project site via Hiab lorry for lower mobilisation costs and timescales, these pontoons are capable of transporting multi-tonne excavators. As such, they are perfect for dredging work at sites that are awkward to access. Indeed, the wider, 700mm draft pontoon can transport machinery up to eight tonnes. Its narrower counterpart can carry a 2.5-tonne machine, with five tonnes possible if a further central module is fitted.

Thanks to the success of these pontoons, we have now also built powered excavator pontoons. This newer, self-propelled addition, also transportable by hiab lorry, can track the mini-digger it is transporting on and off the towpath and into the bottom of the boat. As a result, it is a more versatile option for canal dredging operations.

In conclusion, canal dredging is a vital part of ensuring our waterways are well-maintained. Yet to ensure best possible results, it is key that relevant stakeholders engage marine maintenance experts like The Rothen Group. By doing so, boaters, animals and plants alike can use and thrive on clearer canals.

For more information on canal dredging and how to dredge a canal, email The Rothen Group at, or call on 01827 215715.

What is canal dredging?

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