Nicola Clay - Project Director, Port Development & Dredging


I’m Project Director for port development and dredging – so it’s my job to focus on new port projects and disposal sites. I lead EIA and design, consent, working within a cross disciplinary team.

I also hold an internal role focusing on Smart Ports – to accelerate our transformation from traditional engineering to digital engineering. It’s a global role for our business line, crystallising what smart port capability looks like.

The role involves identifying where we need to make strategic hires to fill our gaps – such as port operations experts, people with software expertise and digital solutions developers. It’s a wide remit and very topical, as digitalisation and automation become the focus for businesses in all kinds of sectors. The ports industry wants to prepare for the future. 

What is a Smart Port?

There are many different definitions and the size and scale could be almost anything. My role is to pick out what’s important and create a meaningful definition for Royal HaskoningDHV. Then the challenge will be to focus our efforts on the key areas – whether these be port and terminal automation, smart asset management, energy efficiency or security.

At the heart of creating a smart port is optimising the use of space, time, energy and resources. The goal is to increase efficiency and productivity, examining how technology can help.

I’m also examining the trends in maritime automation, digitalisation, electrification and supply chain logistics. I listen to clients, who are telling us that security, emissions and productivity are important. Their questions are useful, too – for example, how can technology be used to monitor underwater structures without the need for divers; how can we forecast the maintenance that will be needed?

What I love about my work

I love the fact that we’re building a business. It’s about planning, understanding the opportunity, providing solutions to clients, creating the capability. It’s less about the technology and more about the solving of client problems. By the end of the programme we will have new capabilities and products that will be valued by our clients and position us as leaders in digital maritime.

I’m really excited about the enormous potential from sensors. For example, some businesses are now placing sensors within office chairs to get real time data about occupancy. We can take advantage of sensors in maritime. As an example, where lock gates are getting old and approaching the end of their lifecycle, applying sensors to the gates means we can monitor the strain and actively manage them in accordance with certain conditions.

This way we gain more information about how they operate and how to safely extend their life. Similarly we can sense the levels of corrosion of concrete and steel. Applying sensors is extremely cost effective and generates very useful data – the opportunities are huge.

Why I chose Royal HaskoningDHV

My professional background is environmental assessment, ports and dredging. I wanted to work at the best consultancy in that area – and Royal HaskoningDHV is leading the way in port development. I’ve been here for six years, and what keeps me here is the variety of work. I am lucky to be involved in very exciting and challenging major projects.

In addition, Royal HaskoningDHV is an excellent company to work for. It’s a flexible employer and there are always lots of opportunities to get involved in different things. While it has a corporate feel, it is very people focused and the culture is strong and very positive.