Capital dredging works on an unprecedented scale is on the cards as the Indian government pushes its ambitious Sagarmala project that will see regional economic clusters centred on port development.
“The proposed integration of coastal and inland waterways for faster and more eco-friendly movement of cargo along India’s sea and river ports will open up huge opportunities for dredging,” Captain Sudhir V Subhedar, former president of Indian Coastal Conference (ICC) Shipping Association told IHS Maritime.
The government is keen to include private and foreign partners for the project, for which annual expenditure for the first phase for the year ending 31 March 2016 is estimated to be close to INR7 billion (USD106 million).
Substantial cargo is expected to move in feeder vessels and barges across rivers as the process of increasing containerisation of domestic cargo picks up, Subhedar told delegates at the INMEX SMM India 2015 Conference, held 23-24 September in Mumbai.
Modernisation and expansion of ports is integral to the project, which will also include building a network of inland waterways along rivers.
“The objective is to provide a draft of 3 m for all 101 waterways by 2020,” Subhedar said.
Under the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, domestic yards will be encouraged to build the cutter suction dredgers needed for excavation of waterways, he added.
While noting that adequate dredgers and know-how are available for conventional, deepwater dredging, the Mumbai-based Institution of Naval Architects believes the scenario is somewhat complicated and challenging in the case of shallow-water capital and maintenance dredging in minor ports, riverways, and river ports.
“Out-of- box solutions will be the order of the day and the possibility of redeployment of existing resources to the dredging requirements of coastal and IWT (inland water transport) sectors needs to be examined,” the institution said in a note to the Dredge India 2015 conference it held on 11 June.