dredging quality management – everything you need to know

Next Gen measurment

Recently the National Dredging Quality Management Program enacted new requirements intended to increase production and develop higher standards within the dredging industry. Within this article you will find an overview of DQM, details on the latest specifications, and what to expect if you work within the dredging industry.

Dredge Quality Management In Short

The National Dredging Quality Management Program, or DQM for short, is a state of the art, automated dredging monitoring system. Dredge operators use the system’s analysis tools to interpret and analyse processing data. Designed for USACE, the system is used primarily within the United States.

Dredging Quality Management Summary

+  DQM is an automated dredge monitoring system used to increase dredging production efficiency.

+  All dredgers working for the USACE are required to use dredging quality management software.

+  In addition to requirements on what instrumentation must be used, the program also stipulates what data must be collected. 

+  Measurement data is recorded by the program before being transmitted back to the DQM Support Center.

Provided that DQM is mandatory for all USACE dredging projects, it is most often used within the United States. Dredge operators use the system to generate and organize as much data as possible. By  implementing this software they are able to enable process improvement.

To make this possible, the program specifies required certifications, instrumentation, technical capabilities, and  process support.

By and large, the highest significance of the program is to record all data retrieved by the various required instrumentation. What’s more, that data is transmitted back to the DQM Support Center. Ultimately, the USACE has partnered with the DQM to bridge the gap of missing operating data.

What is the USACE?

USACE, The United States Army Corps of Engineers, is a team of soldiers and civilian engineers servicing over 100 countries. The USACE is the leading Federal agency tasked with the majority of dredging projects in the US. Their goals are to build and maintain US infrastructure, provide military facilities, and protect American interests abroad.

In terms of dredging, the USACE aims to promote the economy by dredging and maintaining America’s waterways – the paths shipment boats use to transport commodities.

Bill Without Question

Using Red Meter’s real time measurement system, you’ll be able to find your dredging “sweet spot”, ensuring your operation continues to run as efficiently as possible. What’s more, you can avoid proof of work or billing queries with Red Meter’s precise data reporting, stored via logged and live data. This easy to use, robust instrument enables process control using one simple device.

Specification Changes

Recently, DQM enacted changes to it’s specifications. Formerly named Silent Inspector, the program underwent a title change to better reflect its focus – quality dredging. Now that “Quality Dredging” is in place, all USACE dredging projects are required to use next generation dredging monitoring instruments.

In addition, the DQM also requires that dredging monitoring be automated and constant. 

DQM Specifications

Specifications for DQM differ for Hoppers, Scows, and Pipeline Dredges. However, all types of DQM contracts address comparable topics. For example, every DQM contract will include certification requirements and contractor-provided sensor and data requirements.

Additionally, the sensor and data requirements include:

+  Type, number, and locations

+  Quality control criteria

+  Minimum data performance

+  Data reporting and format

+  Reference datum(s)

Required Instrumentation

Each dredge abiding by DQM is responsible for using contractor-provided computer equipment and the required data-reporting interface. Additionally, dredges must provide quality assurance check descriptions within the required parameters. These checks are required for both pre-dredging and during dredging. Furthermore, dredgers must give specific deliverables alongside data format examples and definitions. This allows for the data being read to be implicit for both the contracted dredgers and the USACE.

These newest specifications added to the DQM include additional DQM certification requirements. Included within these are a punch-list of DPIP requirements, Lat/Long & UTC reporting, updated computer requirements, internet access requirements, and updated performance requirements. In summary, these latest updates were designed to increase efficiency and track performance. In order to do this, effective “smart” instruments must be used in order to accurately read and record measurement data. 

Data Transfer Specifications

Data transfer steps will vary depending on the type of dredge, but like the general specifications all operate on the same principles.

First, the data is sent from the contractor’s system (via a serial data connection) and delivered to the onboard DQM computer. After this, the data is then stored on the DQM computer and remotely transferred to the DQM Support Center in real time. Transfer of the data is done via the mandatory onboard internet connection. Backup of all acquired data must be kept by the contractor until the project completion date and/or until confirmation that the data has been received by the DQM Support Center database.

Required Instrumentation and Measurements

+  Vessel Longitude & Latitude

+  Draghead Longitude & Latitude

+  Dredge Course

+  Dredge Speed

+  Dredge Heading

+  Hull Status

+  Load Number

+  Tide (Vertical Correction)

+  Fore and Aft Draft Fore and Aft Ullage

+  Hopper Volume

+  Pump RPM Minimum

+  Pump Effort

+  Positioning System Open/Close sensor Draft sensors 

+  Ullage sensors

+  Drag head depth sensor

+  Density Meter

+  Velocity Meter

+  Pump RPM’s 

+  Telemetry system

+  Date and Time

+  Slurry Density in Dragarms

+  Displacement Draghead Depths

+  Displacement Empty

+  Pumping Water Material Recovery


Certifications and Quality Assurance Checks

In order to ensure operations meet certification standards and pass quality assurance checks, the following procedures must be followed:

Dredge plant must be equipped with all required instrumentation that operates at or higher than the minimum data collection standards.

+  Personnel must have expertise to maintain the instrumentation.

Dredge plant must have the necessary equipment for calibrating sensors and for transmitting data.

+  Contractor must have all required information regarding the dredge instrumentation system documented.

Benefits of DQM

In summary, Dredging Quality Management provides USACE 24 hour constant coverage of dredging operations. As a result, they are able to have clarity and improvement of each process. Additionally, the monitoring can provide valuable data for environmental compliance and swift responses to public or environmental concerns. Abiding by the program verifies that quality work documentation is reliable and certified.

It is anticipated that the dredging industry will experience higher level standardization for data collection and reporting as well as dispute resolution and avoidance. Additionally, reliable digital recording of operation and performance are expected to become standard.

To illustrate further, additional benefits are listed below:

+   Monitor and document where and when dredging and disposal operations take place

+   Reduce paperwork

+   Create detailed production reports

+   Allows for flexible scheduling of human inspectors

+   Improves government estimates and planning


Without a doubt, USACE dredging personnel will be held to a higher level of responsibility for dredging project success when using Dredging Quality Management software.

What’s more, USACE dredging projects can expect to see increases in production due to the automated, constant measuring required by DQM.  

Some dredges will have to acquire next generation instrumentation in order to abide by the DQM regulations. Further reading: How Red Meters enable process control for dredging operations using real time density measurement.

Above all, the DQM changes will boost productivity, lessen project completion time, add clarity to pricing, and standardize the industry to the highest possible efficiency. Things will be changing for dredgers, but these investments will prove profitable.


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