Dutch dredging firm Van Oord Dredging and Marine Contracting Company NV is set to win a contract to increase the depth of the government-owned Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai. This would enable the port to handle larger ships than it currently does, as also increase the volume of cargo that passes through it.
On Tuesday, when bids for the depth-increasing exercise were opened, the Dutch firm, which, with 350 dredgers is among the largest in the world, emerged the lowest bidder. Van Oord had quoted Rs970 crore.
Dredgers are machines used to increase the depth of the channel though which ships approach a port.
Jawaharlal Nehru Port is India’s busiest container port, and accounts for 61% of the containers handled at the 12 major government-owned ports in the country.
The port had earlier short-listed three Dutch dredging firms to do the work estimated to cost Rs1,000 crore. Apart from Van Oord, Dredging International and Royal Boskalis Westminster NV were also in the fray.
The port currently handles container vessels of up to 3,000 teu (twenty-foot equivalent units, after the size of the typical container; this is the standard measure of capacity in the container shipping business) from a depth or draft of 12.5 metres. This, in itself, is difficult and the port manages it by ensuring that these ships enter it at high tide, when the depth is more. The port also handles bigger vessels, but these enter it after off-loading some of their cargo elsewhere, in an effort to reduce the draft.
A 6,000teu container ship will require more draft. “By deepening the channel, we are doubling the vessel capacity at the port,” said S.M. Kulkarni, chief manager, port planning and development, Jawaharlal Nehru Port.
Rotterdam-based Van Oord will deepen the channel from 12.5m to 14m over a period of 27 months starting in the middle of 2007. “After the channel is deepened to 14m, a 3,000teu-capacity vessel can come into the port anytime without waiting for high tide. And a 6,000teu-capacity vessel can call at the port with a minimum tide of two metres,” Kulkarni explained.
As of 31 March 2007, container traffic at the port, which has three container-handling terminals, increased 23.69% to 3.3 million teu from 2.67 million teu a year earlier. Of this, the container terminal run by the government-owned port handled 1.31 million teu while the Nhava Sheva International Container Terminal (NSICT), operated by the Dubai government-owned D. P. World, handled 1.36 million teu. A third terminal, Gateway Terminals India, run by a consortium of Danish shipping and port operator A.P. Moller-Maersk Group and state-run Container Corporation of India (Concor) Ltd, handled 0.63 million teu.
The port plans to fund its channel-deepening work through a mix of internal accruals and market borrowings.