In a recent meeting, senior officials from both the ministries discussed the issue of funding for dredging which is a highly capital intensive activity. Dredging involves removal of silt or sand from ocean or river bed with the help of barges in order to increase the depth of water or to restore the existing depth. After dredging, it becomes possible for vessels with deeper draught or weight to access a port or jetty. Dredging of one metre on an average requires Rs 100 crore.
Dredging in itself is not profitable. We do not expect private companies to take part in this activity but on suggestion from the finance ministry we will try to attract private participation, said a shipping ministry official.
New container terminal projects at JNPT and Kochi attracted private operators only after they were assured that dredging activity would be funded by the government. The only quarter from which the shipping ministry expects to get some interest is the operators because dredging and consequent berthing of bigger vessels will get them more business.
The feasibility of adopting a corporate model on the lines of a special purpose vehicle to undertake dredging activity was also discussed.