Towards Indigenisation: Domestic manufacture of dredgers and dredging components

Domestic manufacture of dredgers and dredging components

There is vast scope for the dredging industry in the country today. Developing and maintaining existing major ports, building new ports, exploring offshore resources, developing national waterways and catering to de-

mand from the navy, offer considerable growth opportunities to this segment. Given the robust demand for dredging and the government’s Make in India initiative, this is an opportune time to focus on indigenisation of dredger manufacturing. Locally manufactured dredgers will not only reduce the cost of dredging but will also help in improving the overall business climate.

Experience so far

The experience of Indian shipyards in the manufacture of dredgers and dredging components is fairly limited. With regard to indigenous dredger manufacturing, reportedly, Tebma Shipyards has delivered the maximum number of dredgers so far. It is followed by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited and Startek Shipyard, Chennai. Other local players that have undertaken the manufacturing of dredgers include Hooghly Dock and Port Engineers Limited, Shoft Shipyard Private Limited, A.C. Roy and Company Private Limited, Bharati Defence and Infrastructure Limited, and Hindustan Shipyard Limited.

The majority of the technology transfer arrangements made for the construction of dredgers in the country have met with limited success or no success at all. According to experts, in most cases, the original design calculations have been retained by the technology provider with no provision for transfer of knowledge or technical know-how to the domestic player. Besides, there are no provisions in agreements for imparting knowledge to engineers on the kind of equipment, parts and spares being used for building dredgers. Consequently, these joint ventures (between domestic and foreign shipyards) have not secured any major orders.

The government has entrusted the job of studying the future prospects for dredging and the indigenisation of dredger design to the Indian Maritime University. Further, in April 2016, the Dredging Corporation of India (DCI) signed an MoU with BEML for the design and supply of certain dredger spares in line with the government’s indigenisation initiative, so as to enable Indian dredging companies to save repair time and reduce their foreign exchange exposure.

Potential for indigenisation

In order to secure the benefits of indigenous production, it is imperative to identify specific areas where indigenisation is feasible and profitable. To begin with, domestic shipyards need to focus on developing expertise in the design and manufacture of dredgers with technical assistance from a foreign technology partner, while critical equipment and spare parts of dredgers such as the dredge pump, gearbox, engine and draghead should be procured from foreign suppliers.

With regard to the type of dredgers, various research studies and expert opinions indicate that indigenisation of backhoe dredgers is possible and the success rate is quite high. Cutter suction dredgers (CSDs) can also be built in Indian shipyards under the supervision of expert engineers from foreign technology providers. Since the construction of trailing suction hopper dredgers requires large investment, it is more appropriate to indigenise the manufacture of spare parts, particularly suction pipe parts such as the turning gland, gimbal ring, fork arms, draghead, etc.

The way forward

In the long term, the sustainability of the Indian dredging industry will be critically dependent upon the ability to manufacture quality dredgers domestically. Given the increased demand for new dredgers, significant opportunity exists for indigenous manufacturing due to their cost competitiveness. However, Indian shipyards will take some time before they acquire the technical know-how for designing and manufacturing equipment, particularly complicated components and spare parts. As such equipment is not currently available domestically, it is sourced from foreign countries, a trend which is not likely to change in the short term.