Dredger plans get a lift

P Manoj | Updated on March 08, 2021

Machines at work: Dredgers are specialised and complex vessels with highly integrated technical components ss kumar   -  SS KUMAR

World’s biggest dredger maker IHC Holland shares tech with Cochin Shipyard


Cochin Shipyard Ltd has pulled off the impossible by coaxing the world’s biggest dredger maker, the Dutch company IHC Holland BV, to share technology, design and expertise to locally build specialised and complex vessels used for deepening and maintaining the channel of ports.

The ‘operational and technological knowhow’ in dredger construction, particularly the large size and high-end Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers (TSHD) are “closely held” in Europe, primarily by Dutch firms, making IHC a global giant in the field.

Big global dredging contractors such as Van Oord, Boskalis and Jan De Nul are also based out of the Netherlands; thus, the technology, operational knowledge and specialised high-quality dredging equipment are held by a select few in the Dutch cluster.

IHC has always been wary of sharing its technology and design with anyone but a government increasingly looking at self-reliance through the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative prompted the dredger maker to change its mind, looking at the world’s biggest dredging market where billions of dollars are being invested to expand port capacity to meet rising demands for trade.

The first dredger — a TSHD of 8,000 or 12,000 cubic metre hopper capacity — under the technology collaboration will be built by Cochin Shipyard for Dredging Corporation of India Ltd (DCI), India’s biggest dredging contractor, for which a memorandum of understanding was recently signed.

“The technology collaboration has a strong bearing on the segment and is also a proof of the credible impact of the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiatives,” said Madhu Nair, chairman and managing director, Cochin Shipyard.

DCI’s fleet of TSHD’s currently caters to 70-75 per cent of the annual dredging needs of major Indian ports. DCI is looking to expand its fleet with a new high capacity TSHD, estimated to cost ₹800 crore, to meet the rising demand for dredgers.

Dredgers are specialised and complex vessels with highly integrated technical components as well as demanding design and performance criteria. “Hence, dredger construction has an inherently high entry barrier, which can be considered advantageous to Cochin Shipyard with the necessary infrastructure for constructing large Cutter Suction Dredgers (CSDs) and TSHDs,” a government official said.

Dredger construction has also been identified as a priority area for revenue growth in CSL’s Strategy Roadmap for 2030.

Collaborative operating models are essential not only from a growth perspective, but also from the point of building technical competence and expertise within the country, CSL’s Nair said.

There is another reason for this.

The dozen ports owned by the Centre will have to give dredging works on nomination basis (without tender) to DCI according to the draft dredging guidelines for major ports prepared by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways.

“Major Ports may entrust a dredging project to a ports’ owned company, in which it owns controlling share, on nomination basis with the approval of the Board of Trustees/ Directors of the Port,” says the draft prepared by the ministry.

DCI is owned by four state-owned ports.

The Ministry reserves the right to assign in public interest any contract for dredging work in any major port on nomination basis to ports owned dredging company, it added.

The assured business accruing to DCI from the policy guidelines is expected to drive its fleet expansion plans.

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Published on March 08, 2021
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