Technology Priority

Focus on innovation in dredgers and other equipment

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.

Opportunities galore

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.

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