Mumbai: Essar Shipping Ltd, the ship-owning and operating company of Essar Group, has acquired a newly built dredger even as more Indian firms look to enter the dredging sector to cash in on the huge opportunity for deepening port channels to allow larger ships.
The 4,500 cubic metre capacity trailer suction hopper dredger was purchased by Essar from the original owner who was building the equipment at a Chinese yard, said a company official who did not want to be named.
Dredging works at ports are carried out with specialized ships called dredgers.
Essar will use the dredger mainly for its own captive needs at Hazira port where it is building a new berth at its jetty through which it imports raw materials required for its steel plant. But it is not averse to renting it out to others.
“We are not a dredging company, we are shipowners and operators. In spare time, we also plan to rent the dredger to clients in India,” the official said, adding the company may buy more dredgers “depending on the requirements”.
Essar has already expressed willingness to charter the dredger to the state-owned Dredging Corp. of India (DCI). “Essar has offered the dredger to us on time charter and we have inspected the vessel,” said a DCI official who did not want to be named.
Trailer suction hopper dredgers are used to maintain the depth of berths and channel of a port at a certain level.
Entities including Hindustan Infrastructure Projects & Engineering Pvt. Ltd, state-run Shipping Corp. of India and Gujarat Maritime Board have announced plans to float dredging ventures attracted by the huge opportunities for dredging works at Indian ports and the Rs2,427 crore Sethusamudram ship channel project.
India’s 12 major ports, owned by the Union government, have also lined up investments worth Rs6,304 crore to deepen their channels over the next three-five years.
Besides, ports owned by the state governments that have been given to private entities for development and operation, also require dredging to allow ships to enter for loading and unloading of cargo.
The Indian dredging sector has so far been dominated by DCI and small private firms such as Jaisu Dredging and Shipping Ltd. But these entities do not have adequate dredging fleet to take up growing dredging works. As a result, Dutch dredging firms such as Van Oord Dredging and Marine Contracting Co. NV, Dredging International NV and Royal Boskalis Westminster NV have won dredging contracts inIndia.