New staff member in the Ports and Waterways section

News - 15 April 2021 - Webmaster Hydraulic Engineering

We welcome dr. Alex Kirichek as a new assistant professor to the section of Ports and Waterways.

Before coming back to TU Delft as an Assistant Professor, I was a PI of several port-related research project at Deltares. The years at Deltares have been highly productive in terms of newly-developed tools, software packages, out-of-the-box scientific findings and published research papers. Being a supervisor of 3 PhD students, 2 postdocs and +10 MSc/BSc students from TU Delft allowed me to generate new fundamental and technological knowledge, which have been published in peer-reviewed journals and in industry-relevant magazines.

Over last 5 years, I have been initiating and executing many innovative port-related research projects. I was subcontracted to the Port of Rotterdam during my postdoctoral study at TU Delft that followed my PhD research (also at TU Delft). This valuable experience helped me to better understand the port operations and identify the knowledge gaps that can be potentially targeted by applied research helping the port authorities to meet their internal missions such as Digitalization, Energy Transition, Sustainability and Carbon Neutrality. Furthermore, I have met many industrial experts from port authorities, governmental organizations, PIANC and SmartPort, who became an important part of my network that is very active even during these challenging Corona times.

The collaboration with the Port of Rotterdam, Hamburg Port Authority and Rijkswaterstaat helped me to define my vision on the research that I would like to develop further. The following includes the research lines that I have been working on up to now or the directions which I started exploring recently:

Navigation and port infrastructure. Navigation through mud concept plays a big role in new sustainable maintenance strategies. The research knowledge on the topic has been developed together with MARIN, the Port of Rotterdam, the Port of Hamburg, Rijkswaterstaat and TU Delft within the roadmap towards implementation of navigation through mud concept. Modification of the port infrastructure is another promising research line that I am developing at this moment. For instance, applying new generation of sensors can potentially open new horizons for monitoring options for port authorities. As an out-of-the-box idea, Fiber-Optical cable is tested as a sensor allowing online visualization of bathymetry.

Sustainable port maintenance. There is a high demand for new sustainable methods that can potentially reduce the dredging costs and GHG emissions in ports. I have been involved in a number of pilots, where alternative maintenance concepts were tested. The first results look promising, thus the new sustainable concept for port maintenance is feasible in the near future. The important factor for sustainable port maintenance is including Nature Based Solutions concept. I believe that application of this concept can be beneficial from societal, environmental and economical points of view.   

Nature based technologies for sediment management. The concept of nature-based technologies has been developing rapidly over last years. The recent research findings of my team show that natural organisms (e.g. algae, bacteria, vegetation, worms) can speed up certain engineering processes (e.g. compaction, dewatering, bed protection, flocculation, etc). Thus, the nature-based technologies can be applied in waterways for strengthening river and sea beds, reducing turbidity in a water column or keeping fine sediment in suspension for a long time.

Digitalization. Ports and governmental organizations possess enormous amount of data that has been collected over the decades.  Smart applications of Data Science can potentially bring new insights into most important port processes such as transport, logistics, trade or infrastructure. Furthermore, data-based quick assessment tools, digital twins and simulations can be developed for daily operations and analysis in port practices.

All my research projects are currently taken under the umbrella of the research platform MUDNET, that was founded by myself and my TU Delft colleagues from the faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences. Up to now, there are 5 PhD students and 3 postdocs are conducting their innovative research within MUDNET synergizing their findings with research groups in the Department of Hydraulic Engineering and in the Department of Geosciences & Engineering.

Alex Kirichek

Assistant professor