News Stories

Wilmington District Commissioned Dredge MURDEN

Wilmington District Public Affairs
Published June 11, 2013

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District officially commissioned its newest shallow-draft dredge vessel – MURDEN – in a ceremony May 29 at the Engineer Repair Yard in Wilmington.

      The Commissioning Ceremony signifies the acceptance for service and entry of a ship into the active fleet.  It is the final and, perhaps most significant, event of the triad that brings a ship to life.  Keel laying, Christening, and Commissioning carry a ship from an idea to a reality.

     Ship naming and launching endow a ship’s hull with her identity, but many milestones have to be completed before she is designated as commissioned, said Wilmington District Deputy Operations Chief Roger Bullock. After beginning sea and dredging trials in the Atchafalaya River, the MURDEN departed Morgan City, La., on her maiden voyage, July 29, 2012.  The seven-day journey to Clearwater, Fla., included a transit stop at New Orleans District.  The MURDEN completed her sea trials in the Jacksonville (Fla.) District area of operations working on three major emergency operations projects before making her way to Wilmington.

     We had to wrestle her away from the Jacksonville District, said Wilmington District Commander Colonel Steven Baker.  “After nine months of service in Jacksonville, the MURDEN returned to its home port of Wilmington for the first time since leaving Louisiana 10 months ago.”

     The dredge MURDEN will operate Atlantic coast shallow draft dredging projects, complementing the existing District fleet of the CURRITUCK, MERRIT AND SNELL, and will continue to define the commitment the Corps of Engineers has to ensuring the safe navigability for all vessels within Atlantic and Gulf coast shallow draft projects, Baker said.  

    “This is a great day for the City of Wilmington and the Wilmington District,” said Mayor Bill Saffo.  “The MURDEN will play a vital role locally and along the Atlantic seaboard which is vital to the continued economic health of our city.”

    The split-hopper dredge is named after William (Bill) R. Murden (1922-1997) whose technical expertise established the United States as a global leader in dredging and harbor engineering, according to Baker.

     “For several decades the name Bill Murden has rung a familiar, authoritative bell for anyone affiliated with the dredging industry,” Baker said.  “We are privileged to have our shallow-draft dredge named in Bill Murden’s honor. I think he would be very proud of this amazing vessel which is the district’s first new shallow-draft dredge in 30 years.”

   Born in Beaufort, North Carolina, Murden was the son of a Corps Captain and learned as an early age to identify equally well with the captains who made the decisions on the water and the mechanics who kept the dredges running. 

   A veteran of the greatest generation, Murden’s service to the nation began in World War II when he dropped out of the Citadel to join the Army.  He quickly rose in rank and by the end of the conflict served as an Army Air Corps bomber command pilot. 

   After the war, Murden returned to college, finished his degree in mechanical engineering and began his career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Norfolk (Va.) District.  In 1956, he joined the Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C.  There, he began his life’s work in earnest and served for 30 years.

     “Throughout his career, Bill was involved in a myriad of projects in support of U.S. military programs bother here in the continental United States and overseas,” Baker said.  “His last Corps assignment was as “Mr. Dredging”, a position he was appointed to in 1979 by the Chief of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Jack Morris.  As dredging chief and member of the senior executive service, Bill was responsible for managing all aspects of the Corps’ national dredging program.”

   In all, about 100 people attended the ceremony including Melissa Midget from U.S. Senator Kay Hagan’s office; Janet Bradbury from U.S. Senator Richard Burr’s office; City of Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo; City of Wilmington council member Charlie Rivenbark; Army Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Gwen Baker; U.S. Coast Guard Sector Commander Steven McGee; Marine Design Center Director Bill Gretzmacher; Senior Policy Advisor for Navigation and Floating Plant Operations, Institute for Water Resources, Tom Verna; Navigation Business Line Manager for the Institute for Water Resources Mark Pointon; Conrad Industries Vice President Terry Frickey, Project Manager Neil Verret, and Naval Architect Matthew Newborn; Master, Mates and Pilots Union Director of Government Affairs Klaus Luhta; and Pete Schuffels, Marine Engineers Beneficial Association.

     Also on hand for the ceremony were the dredge’s 14 crew members. The MURDEN is operated by two seven-man crews which alternate on a weekly basis.

   The Murden is 156 feet long with a 35-foot beam and 11-foot depth, and can conduct dredging operations in waters as shallow as 5 feet.  The hull is steel and the deckhouse is aluminum.  Drag heads on either side of the vessel lift sand into the hopper bin between the two hulls. When the hopper bin reaches capacity, it opens from the bottom and deposits the material. The drag heads can move up to 12 cubic yards of material per minute.