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Manufacturing Today Online - May/June 2007 

26 August 2007

New Dredges in Process at 
Ellicott®'s Baltimore Plant

From Old-line Manufacturing to New World Success
Ellicott® Dredges has reinvented itself multiple times to compete as a frontrunner manufacturer on the global stage for more than 100 years.

by Peter R. Gourlay

Ellicott®, a division of Baltimore Dredge Enterprises LLC, has designed and manufactured more than 1,500 dredges, serving customers in 70 countries. The Baltimore firm is the largest U.S.-based cutter dredge manufacturer. Ellicott® is an old-line manufacturing company that has reinvented itself multiple times to compete as a front line manufacturer on the global stage for more than 100 years.

Ellicott®, founded in 1885, was one of the original players in building the Panama Canal. Dredges from yesteryear were built from wood and powered by steam. Today, they are built from steel and powered by diesel or electric motors. Automation has played a large role in dredging, and modern technology such as finite element analysis for structural weight reduction plays a large part in the design and manufacturing process.

The global market for Ellicott® dredging equipment is hot. The company now has a record backlog of more than $50 million. The firm's business opportunities are being driven by global needs in many different market segments including sand mining, environmental remediation, marina development and maintenance, lake restoration projects, investment in water infrastructure - whether for wastewater treatment plants or industry related - flood control and land reclamation.

Ellicott® dredges are known for their efficiency and durability. It's not uncommon to find Ellicott® dredges still operational 50 to 70 years after their production. The Panama Canal Authority is still using Ellicott®'s 1942 suction dredge Mindi as the canal's main dredge. Ellicott® is benefiting from strong demand based on its products' reputation for rugged construction, longevity and the appropriate technology for the intended applications. What makes Ellicott® successful is not only its long-term market presence and its well-known brand names (such as Mud Cat, IMS Versidredge, and LWT), but also its alliance with technology partners who give Ellicott® a leg up in the relatively small dredging industry.

Ellicott® is not the only player in the dredge-building business, but Bowe says it has differentiated itself from larger European competitors by focusing on portable cutter dredges and dredge machinery, and not worrying about keeping a shipyard busy.

Bowe stresses that Ellicott®'s focused approach allows it to be more nimble than its larger competitors that focus on the biggest projects. "We know that we are a machinery company specializing in dredging equipment and because of that identity we are the industry leader in several industry segments," he says. "Buyers around the world understand the value proposition of our products and services.

"Ellicott® does not shy away from difficult markets because it has learned to defray risks and reap business rewards around the world for the past 100 years.

Bowe is a big advocate of the U.S. Commercial Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce whose mission is to help Americans export their products and services in foreign markets. "The U.S. Commercial Service's Gold Key Service has played an instrumental role in Ellicott®'s global success," Bowe says.

"We know that to sell in countries like Nigeria, where equipment may be operated in extremely remote locations, we need the most dependable, easy-to-service technology available, not necessarily the latest automation. Nigerian customers consider the Ellicott® dredger efficient, reliable and rugged. There is an intense interest in quality dredging equipment - "money-making machines" as they are referred to locally - given the strong sand mining market. While many Americans might feel that Nigeria is too risky, Ellicott® is committed there."

Our customer base in Nigeria is 100 percent private sector, all profit-motivated entrepreneurs," Bowe says. He explains Ellicott® has taken the time to get established locally in the market and has found some key banks that can help provide local financing to the buyers. "Nigeria is getting its financial house in order," he adds.

Ellicott® is also working in a risky market in Iraq, but the government is a dependable buyer. Ellicott® has had success selling to the government, which has extensive dredging needs for Iraq reconstruction. Ellicott®'s dredges for Iraq will be used for electricity generation by desilting hydroelectric dams, flood control on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, irrigation canal maintenance and work at Um Qasr Port in the south. Ellicott® secured three contracts with three different government agencies for more than 10 dredging machines valued at more than $10 million.

For one of the contracts, the Commerce Department helped organize a joint effort, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Overseas Private Investment Corp., to help Ellicott® win an international tender against competitors from five countries.

Based on Ellicott®'s success in these two difficult markets, it recently received the U.S. Commercial Service Export Achievement award. "Ellicott® earned the award for its outstanding track record over the past several years in increasing its exports dramatically, entering new export markets and creating local manufacturing jobs," says Bill Burwell of the Commerce Department.

While Ellicott® continues its success, its Baltimore plant is at full capacity. To help meet customers' needs and a growing backlog, Ellicott® has broken ground on a new plant in New Richmond Wis., scheduled for completion by December 2007. Ellicott® is successful because it has a lot of experience doing international business. For the past 100 years, the firm has been willing to learn how to do business in various countries and is willing to travel to meet foreign clients. Ellicott® has also engaged other U.S. government agencies whose sole mission is to help American business compete globally and to provide exporters and foreign buyers with capital.

"While we occasionally work in riskier markets than most American manufacturers, we know that's where the opportunities are," Bowe says. "The key is knowing how to mitigate risk." MT

Peter A. Gourlay is president of the Maryland-Asia Environmental Partner-ship. He can be reached at[email protected] 

Excerpt of article printed with permission from ManufacturingToday.  For full interview , visit

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