The Dredging Corporation of India (DCI) owns the lion’s share of the maintenance dredging business in the country, and provides dredging services to major ports. Given the rising dredging requirements on India’s east and west coasts as a result of port development, and recent improvements in the manufacturing sector, DCI anticipates the need to expand its dredging capacity. With additional infrastructure projects on the horizon across major ports, the future requirement for such dredgers can be met in India once the necessary skills are obtained.
Smart technological solutions are being implemented by dredging companies to improve their operational efficiency. They have evolved as technology, artificial intelligence and other smart applications have become more prevalent. This has also improved connectivity.
Innovations in dredging vessels and other equipment are necessary for a specialised market. Adaptive management and follow-up monitoring have become important benchmarks for environmental considerations in all phases of a project.
To ensure the proper execution of dredging projects, it is necessary to prioritise both sustainable solutions and technological innovation. Some of the most commonly used dredging equipment includes trailing suction hopper dredgers, cutter suction dredgers, grab dredgers, backhoe dredgers and water injection dredgers.
DCI’s opening gambit
Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) has signed a deal with DCI to collaborate in terms of technology on the construction of India’s largest dredger with IHC Holland. The contract for the project is being identified as a crucial step towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat. CSL and DCI’s collaborative endeavour establishes a precedent for Indian private and public sector players to build large complex vessels in India as per international standards.
The contract for the construction of the 12,000 cubic metre trailing suction hopper dredger is the result of the efforts made by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways to bring best-in-class worldwide technology to India under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat project. The dredger, to be named DCI Dredge Brahmaputra, will be constructed with technology and design support from Royal IHC. The vessel, which measures 127 metres in length and 28
metres in width, is built on IHC’s worldwide famous “Beagle” platform. It will be tailored to match all Indian specifications.
Dredgers with capacities ranging from 8,000 to 12,000 cubic metres are complex pieces of equipment that are being produced in India for the first time. DCI and Abu Dhabi’s National Marine Dredging Company have also entered into a strategic partnership to jointly bid on projects on the Indian subcontinent, leveraging each other’s resources, equipment and know-how. The strategic alliance will cover capital dredging, project development on a build-operate-transfer basis, port management, public-private partnership projects involving dredging in accordance with the government’s dredging policy, port development, operations and management, reclamation works, and the development of multimodal transportation.
India is also developing its ports as part of the Indo-Pacific partnership with France, with an emphasis on sustainable infrastructure including eco-fishing ports. Both sides will encourage knowledge sharing and methodology development for upgrading the existing infrastructure, increasing its resilience to climate change, expanding port capacity, and developing storage facilities and plug-and-play infrastructure at ports, with a particular emphasis on developing “green and smart ports” equipped with sustainable dredging and ship recycling.
DCI is now examining its long-term strategic direction and growth opportunities. It has solicited expressions of interest (EoIs) for the employment of a strategy consultant among reputable and established entities/firms engaged in the business of corporate strategy consultancy. The overall goal of this exercise is to outline DCI’s vision for 2030 and to develop strategies for the next 5, 10 and 15 years.
DCI intends to lease its trailer suction hopper dredgers and cutter suction dredgers on a long-term basis to reputable and established entities/enterprises engaged in dredging/marine operations for deployment outside India. The vessels are available for charter on the normal BIMCO bare boat charter party terms and conditions with appropriate modifications. After meeting the domestic dredging demand, the dredgers are available for charter. When no dredgers are committed for deployment in India, DCI will solicit EoIs for chartering the dredgers. With a view to optimising the utilisation of dredging capacity and expanding market penetration outside India, and as part of its corporate strategy, DCI invited EoIs for marketing consultants to promote its business internationally.
Current market developments
Apart from DCI, the Adani Group, Royal Boskalis Westminster NV and BEML Limited are some of the prominent players in the dredging market. Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited (APSEZL) focuses on dredging and reclamation solutions for port and harbour construction. The Adani Group began investing in the creation of a dredging fleet in 2005 with the goal of gaining a share in the port sector. Currently, the firm maintains a sizeable fleet of 23 dredgers. It accounts for a large capital dredging capacity in the country.
APSEZL announced the addition of two new 8,000 cubic metre trailing suction hopper dredgers in January 2018. The new dredgers are among the largest in India’s TSHD fleet. They have the potential to be a significant asset for India in terms of nation building and aiding the government’s port-led projects.
Through its subsidiary, Adani Harbour Services Limited, APSEZL has entered into an agreement to acquire a 100 per cent stake in Ocean Sparkle Limited, India’s third-party maritime services provider. The company’s primary activities are towage, pilotage and dredging.
Dredging gear in the maritime industry
Dredgers are grouped into three categories based on the mechanism used to carry the dredged material from the sea floor to the water surface. Mechanical dredgers come in a variety of configurations, but all operate on the same “hand-packing” basis. These dredgers are equipped with a grab or a bucket that is pushed over loose bed sediments. The bucket is then loaded with material and elevated to convey it to the designated disposal site. Bucket dredgers, bucket ladder dredgers, backhoe dredgers and grab dredgers are some of the more prevalent mechanical dredgers.
The primary characteristic of hydraulic dredgers is that the material dredged is suspended and lifted via the pumping system and fed to outlet pipes. These dredgers are the best for dislodging fine materials since fine materials are simpler to suspend than hefty gravels. Suction dredgers, trailing suction hopper dredgers and water injection dredgers are all examples of common hydraulic dredgers.
Other dredgers are dredgers that are not hydraulic or mechanical dredgers but are intended for a special purpose. All of these additional dredger varieties are capable of operating in shallow waterways such as narrow canals, industrial lagoons and reservoirs. They include jet-lift and air-lift dredgers, augur suction dredgers, reclamation dredgers, pneumatic dredgers, amphibious dredgers, and plough or bed levellers.
The Indian dredging industry is likely to experience significant expansion in the coming years. The government’s plans to create new waterways and ports, as well as upgrade and expand the current ports, will account for the majority of this expansion. The demand for dredging is estimated to reach about 170 million cubic metres in the coming years at existing major ports. In addition, at least eight dredging projects are being considered at existing non-major ports, with an estimated 18 million cubic metres of material to be dredged as part of these projects. Furthermore, the six new ports planned under Sagarmala will create opportunities in the dredging market.
The identification of 106 additional national waterways has created significant potential. Over 200 million cubic metres of dredging volume has been assessed for the next decade for the existing five waterways as well as the 32 new waterways that have been identified as viable for development. Given this increase in dredging requirements, the sector presents ample opportunities for private players, as DCI alone cannot meet the immense industry demand.