Great lakes Dredge and Dock Company (Oak Brook)

Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company is the largest dredging contractor in the United States, creating and restoring waterways, constructing maritime infrastructure for international commercial operations, and restoring shore lines through removing or placing soil, sand, and rock.  The company’s work includes shoreline protection following Superstorm Sandy, and providing berms after the Deep Horizons disaster threatened Louisiana’s coast in 2010.

As a company that sends a significant number of maritime workers overseas, Great Lakes works hard to prepare employees for their time abroad, training them on the “do’s and don’ts” of life in a particular country or region, and briefing them on local customs.  Though language is not usually an obstacle, as English is spoken in many of the nations where Great Lakes sends their workers, for those jobs where language might be a barrier, the company designates project leaders to communicate with the American workers.

David Simonelli, a long-time employee of Great Lakes, has worked in over ten countries, including Iraq, Denmark, and Egypt.  He also moved his family to Qatar for nearly five years when the company was building a port in Qatar’s capital city.  Says Simonelli, “I started with the company at age 21 and I have not looked back. There are a lot of people here who have been with the company 25 years or more. That’s the kind of company it is.”

Simonelli expressed that the vessels are what give Great Lakes an edge on the competition, and what has the company working so extensively worldwide.  He conveyed that the company’s equipment and staff of 1,500 hourly workers and nearly 400 salaried employees are what help the company maintain its 100% success rate on the projects it undertakes.  According to Simonelli, “We take a lot of pride that in 124 years we have never failed to complete a project.  If there are serious mechanical problems, we do have back-up. We do a lot of risk-management engineering.”

Ensuring that the right equipment is available is also key to the success of Great Lakes.  In fact, just shipping the equipment to a work site can cost as much as $3.5 million, which is why jobs are run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Great Lakes’ overseas employees can work for up to six weeks before a three-week break.  Domestically, workers will often work for two weeks and then take one week off.  However, despite such demanding schedules, Great Lakes places a very high priority on safety, and safety injuries and incidents have dropped dramatically in recent years.

If you are looking for overseas work, you can view Great Lakes’ Career Opportunities page here.