Buying Dredging Equipment vs Hiring Dredging Companies. Which Is Right for You?

Be it a marina, a mining operation, or construction site excavation, you will eventually need to contend with a dredging task. You may opt to purchase either new or pre-owned dredging equipment that you or your employees can use to perform the required dredging tasks. However, If dredging is not a skill you have in your particular wheelhouse, the learning curve can be on the steep side. Fortunately, there are professional dredging companies that will supply both the equipment and the know-how to operate it. As is true of any big decision, each choice comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. In this post, we will look at the most critical factors to consider when weighing the pros and cons of both options. No matter which solution you choose, you can be confident you are making the most informed choice for your company.

What Is Dredging?

At its core, dredging is the act of removing or excavating material from an underwater environment. In reality, dredging operations can be as simple as a hand-powered scoop and pulley device used by hobbyist gold-hunters or as complex as self-propelled robotic dredging ships requiring professional operators.

The first and most important step is determining what tasks you will need your dredging operation to handle. This first step is crucial to making sure that you are purchasing the proper dredging equipment or that you are contacting the correct dredging companies. We have provided a quick summary of the most common dredging operations below.

Dredging Operations

The act of dredging differs depending on the reason for the excavation and the material being dredged.

•     Capital Dredging: Carves out new harbors, marinas, or canals or widens and deepens existing passageways

•      Land Reclamation: Transports sand and rock from the seabed to another location to create new islands or shoreline

•      Flood Prevention: Mitigates damage from future floods by deepening channels and creating levees

•      Pollution Remediation: Removal of sediment and rubbish from a body of water; used in oil and sewage spills

•      Resource Collection: The mining or collection of valuable resources, like gold, from the sea or river bed

•      Maintenance: Regular removal of seasonally deposited sediment in shipping channels and marinas

•      Construction Excavation: Excavation or dam construction on a site in preparation for a new construction project

•      Fishing: Dredging the seafloor to collect clams, oysters, and mussels

Each type of dredging summarized above employs a different type of equipment and a different level of expertise to accomplish its ultimate goals. Some dredging tasks can be performed once per year by the property or business owner using purchased dredging equipment and still remain cost-effective. However, there are far more dredging tasks that are better left to the professionals. Have a look at the different scenarios below to help you decide where your specific situation is likely to land.

Buying Dredging Equipment

Many property and business owners are initially inclined towards purchasing the dredging equipment they will need and performing the work themselves or delegating an employee to perform the work. This option is attractive because it allows the business owner the greatest degree of control over the work. Dredging equipment can often be purchased new or used from local dredging companies, and many dredging companies will include a short training course in the operation of the dredging machine. The majority of dredging work will ultimately require an experienced operator knowledgeable in the myriad of environmental and safety regulations that inevitably accompany any underwater project involving the removal or relocation of natural resources from one location to another.


•      Owned equipment can be leased to others for a profit

•      Owned equipment represents a fixed cost that will eventually reach a zero balance allowing a higher profit margin for the owner

•      The owner is afforded a much higher degree of autonomy over the dredging process by performing the dredging themselves


•      Modern dredging equipment can be cost-prohibitive if not used frequently

•      Dredging equipment can be costly to repair, and it may be difficult to obtain replacement parts

•      Many dredging tasks require significant training and expertise to perform safely and with optimum results

•      There are several federal regulatory agencies with ever-changing stipulations and guidelines that must be followed

Hiring Dredging Companies

There is an alternative to buying expensive dredging equipment and taking on the task of dredging yourself. There are several dredging companies with locations throughout the United States that are able to handle any dredging task from the permits and planning to the final performance. Many property owners and business owners who were initially drawn to the lower perceived cost of buying dredging equipment, quickly realized the cost and effort savings offered by hiring dredging companies to perform their dredging work when required. There are several reasons to contract out dredging tasks. The most compelling are discussed below.


•      There is little or no upfront investment capital needed when contracting with dredging companies

•      Dredging companies provide the trained and certified operators with the expertise to complete the job quickly and correctly

•      The dredging companies have a great deal of knowledge regarding the myriad of permits, and certification requirements


•      The cost of dredging will remain constant or increase over time

•      There is no opportunity for creation of a secondary income flow from leasing owned equipment to others

•      The property or business owner will need to relinquish a degree of control over the dredging tasks for efficiency

Buying Dredging Equipment Vs. Hiring Dredging Service

With the pros and cons of each option summarized above, we can now take a deeper look at some of the most significant differences.

Cost of Ownership

The pendulum clearly swings in favor of the dredging companies in the cost of ownership category. Modern dredging equipment is often equipped with the latest technology and advanced robotics components. One dredger can easily run upwards of a half-million dollars, and while there are used dredging units available, it can be difficult to locate replacement parts for older units when the manufacturer has moved on to a new production line.

There is some opportunity to recoup some of the costs spent on purchasing equipment if you are able to lease it to nearby business owners in need of the same type of dredging equipment. In rare scenarios, this added secondary income stream may tip the cost scales in favor of ownership, but in the vast majority of cases, the most cost-effective option is the dredging service.

Training and Expertise

This is another sector where the dredging service has the advantage over buying dredging equipment. When you opt to employ a dredging service, you not only get the dredging equipment that you need, but you get the staff members trained to operate the equipment safely and with optimum effectiveness. While you could certainly train one or more of your own staff members in the proper use of dredging equipment, they are unlikely to possess the level of knowledge of the dredge operator.

Dredging companies are often required to employ only certified dredging operators. This is an added assurance telling you, the customer, that the operator of your leased dredging equipment has the knowledge to operate it safely.

Regulatory Compliance

There is one final factor that is often overlooked when choosing between buying dredging equipment or employing a dredging company. There is a significant array of government red tape and paperwork to manage with any dredging project. Dredging operators often need to be certified by the state or federal authorities, and there are numerous regulatory agencies with their own individual guidelines and stipulations that must be adhered to precisely. A professional dredging company is well aware of the latest regulatory legislation relating to the dredging industry and is well-positioned to handle all the legal minutiae so you can worry about the real work.

The decision to purchase dredging equipment or hire a dredging service is ultimately up to the individual owner. For those who are new to dredging or those who just want to eliminate as many headaches from the process as possible, our recommendation is the dredging company. There are plenty of challenges in the life of the business owner; dredging tasks do not have to be one of them. Visit United Dredging on the web to learn more.

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