The Indian dredging industry is served by both domestic and foreign players. The Dredging Corporation of India (DCI), which was incorporated in 1976, is the biggest player in the industry. As a result of expanding dredging requirements at ports, a number of private players, both domestic and foreign, have entered the sector. The major private players include Dharti Dredging and Infrastructure Limited (DDIL), Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited (APSEZL), Mercator Limited, International Seaport Dredging, and Van Oord.
Experience so far
Given the complex nature of dredging activities, the quality of geotechnical investigations is very critical. However, the information/data provided by soil investigation studies is often not accurate. This results in cost escalations, arbitration and disputes. The lack of adequate port connectivity is also a major issue.
Contractual issues are another key area of concern. Contracts often do not clearly spell out the risks and responsibilities of the two parties involved in the dredging activity, leaving ample room for ambiguity and disputes. Federation Internationale Des Ingenieurs-Conseils guidelines have still not been adopted by the industry. The nautical depth concept has also not seen much acceptance to date, except by a few private ports.
The absence of dredger repair and building facilities as well as a shortage of skilled trained engineers for undertaking dredging operations still remain issues of prime concern for the Indian dredging industry. At present, though there are yards for the repair of vessels in the country, dedicated repair and dry docking facilities for dredgers are absent. Trained engineers are also not available for manning and operating dredgers. However, there are a few dredging companies such as APSEZL, DCI and DDIL that conduct internal training programmes and have also set up small dry docking facilities to undertake in-house dredger repair works.
On the positive side, the new Dredging Guidelines, 2015 have certainly come as good news for the industry. An attempt has been made to address issues which have resulted in dispute and arbitration in the past. In the new guidelines, major ports will be responsible for the information provided in the tender documents, for the pre-tender investigation procedure and for the techniques to be adopted for capital and maintenance dredging.
The way forward
In the past year or so, the government has taken a number of initiatives to promote the growth of the dredging industry. The new programmes launched by the government (Sagar Mala, Jal Marg Vikas, 106 national waterways, Clean Ganga Mission, etc.) will offer huge dredging opportunities, both capital and maintenance, to the industry and are likely to attract new players into the dredging segment. The maximum opportunity will be offered by inland waterways. Further, the three new major ports announced by the government – Vadhawan in Maharashtra, Sagar in West Bengal and Colachel in Tamil Nadu – will offer massive capital dredging opportunities. Apart from these core areas, some opportunity will also be offered by upcoming liquefied natural gas terminals, trenching and backfilling works, land reclamation works and river cleaning projects.
For the successful execution of these dredging projects, it is imperative to involve all stakeholders (consultants, port and the dredging company) at an early stage. There is also an urgent need to undertake proper technical evaluation of projects prior to execution. Further, port authorities need to engage competent consultants that can give advice on the type of equipment to be deployed and the time frame for implementing the project.
Greater stress should be laid on manpower and training. Finally, the procedure for obtaining clearances and approvals from government agencies should also be simplified.
Based on a panel discussion among Colonel Vinod George, Chief Operating Officer, Dredging and Reclamation, APSEZL; John Mackenzie, Director, Business Development, National Marine Dredging Company; Amedeo Peyron, Managing Director, International Seaport Dredging;Dr V.V. Reddy, Executive Director, DDIL;Janakaraj Thomas, Marine Consultant,Jan De Nul Dredging India