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Published on February 6th, 2017

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Dutch Specialists in Full Force for India’s Biggest Dredging Work at J N Port

A joint venture of Jan De Nul NV and Royal Boskalis Westminster NV, Dredging International NV (alone) and Van Oord Dredging and Marine Contracting Co. NV (alone) have submitted initial bids to deepen and widen the channel of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, India’s biggest container port located near Mumbai, to 15 metres from the existing 14 metres to allow bigger ships to dock.

A global tender issued by the Port Trust named after the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to deepen and widen Mumbai harbor channel and J N Port channel to accommodate 15 metre draft vessels with a capacity to carry over 9,000 twenty foot equivalent units or TEUs, closed on 19 January.

A TEU is the standard size of a cargo container and a common measure of capacity in the container business.

The channel deepening and widening work stretching 35.49 kms is estimated to cost about Rs 1,762.2 crore, making it the biggest dredging work yet to be undertaken in an Indian port.

It surpasses the previous highest of Rs 1,219.80 crore spent by J N Port Trust between 2012 and 2014 to deepen its channel to 14m from the earlier 11.5m to enable ships with a capacity to load 6,000 TEUs to berth.

Royal Boskalis Westminster undertook that work on its own.

The cost of dredging the channel by a mere One metre now is higher because of the presence of rock spread over more than 20 lakh square metres. “The cost is based on material to be dredged from the seabed. If it is rocky, then the cost goes up. This part is rocky,” said Neeraj Bansal, the deputy chairman of the Port Trust.

The volume of materials to be dredged from the seabed is estimated at 35.03 million cubic metres of which soil/clay dredging will be 33.3 million cum and rock dredging will be 1.73 million cum. The dredged material comprises marine clay mainly and weathered/sound amygdaloidal basalt rock.

“The estimated dredging cost mentioned in the tender is on the lower side. There is a huge quantity of rock dredging spread over an area of more than 20 lakh square metres,” a dredging industry executive said, asking not to be named. “It is one of the most difficult dredging works to be carried out in India. J N Port Trust should not take chances. it is a channel of national importance; you can’ t play with it,” he said.

As expected, none of the local dredging contractors applied on the tender because of lack of rock dredging capability.

J N Port has mandated TATA Consulting Engineers (TCE) as engineers for the project.

The dredging work should be completed in 24 months from the award of the contract including mobilization period and intervening monsoon periods.

The port, one of the 12 controlled by the union government, loads more than half of India’s container cargo passing through its ports.

In the year to March 2016, the port loaded 4.491 million TEUs, operating at more than its designed capacity of 4.4 million standard containers a year.

J N port currently has four container loading terminals while a fifth one is being developed by Singapore’s PSA International Pte Ltd which will double the port’s container handling capacity to 9.85 million TEUs.

Deputy chairman Bansal said that a feasibility study for the channel deepening project had suggested dredging to either 15 or 16 metres. “My berths are older, so it cannot withstand a 16 metre draft, that’s an infrastructure problem. I cannot go for 16 m draft. Otherwise, it might have been much better if I had gone for a 16 m draft. 15 m is the limit to which I can go”, Bansal said.

The Public Investment Board (PIB) led by India’s expenditure secretary, approved the dredging project on 9 December 2016. It will now be forwarded to the cabinet for a final nod.

The current depth of the port was “not a big challenge” given the state of the global economy and demand scenario, Bansal said.

“Today, when there is a recession in the global market, medium sized ships will be much in demand. But, a concern will come when the business starts up-scaling. At that time, draft will become a serious issue. To be a truly international port, I’ve to align myself as per the trade demand. And I’ve to bring in more value add. The issue is not why I’m spending that much money, the issue is whether I’m serving the trade in a better way or not. If the trade has to realign because of limitation of ports, it’s a bad sign. As an infrastructure project, I must align myself with the business requirement, trade requirement, county’s maritime requirement. That is the basic concept,” Bansal added. Ends/

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