Following the central government’s proposal to dilute its stake in Dredging Corporation of India (DCI), employees fear that privatisation will hit dredging operations across all ports due to a monopoly by the private players. Being the only PSU in the dredging field, DCI employees feel that there should be a level playing field between DCI and private dredging companies at a time when there is huge market opportunity for dredging of about Rs 2,000 crore in the next five years.
The present stake of the government in the PSU is 73.47%, which would be reduced to 22.47% if the government goes ahead with the stake sale. DCI, the only listed PSU in Visakhapatnam, has a net worth of around Rs 1,500 crore. The total fixed assets are around Rs 1,900 crore. “We seek DCI to be continued as a central PSU and strengthened by release of all the outstanding dues and that money can be used for further capital procurements, modern dredgers by scrapping old dredgers,’” NS Neelakantha Rao, general secretary of the DCI Officers’ Association, told FE.
“DCI is not able go for the capital investment due to outstanding dues on account of the Sethusamudram project of Rs 167 crore and other ports of about Rs 300 crore, which have been pending for many years. Release of these dues will help the company to come back on track and fund the capital acquisition on its own even without any financial help from the government,” he said.
The Employees’ Union has urged Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu to take up the issue with the Centre and prevent privatisation. “DCI is forced to compete with private players which are not in the same level playing field. The Indian arms of international players are undercutting the prices because of a slump in the international market. The Indian players have substandard equipment and are quoting low. Earlier, DCI used to get works on nomination basis from GoI, now DCI has to compete for every work,”’ Rao said.
Another proposal put forth by DCI is that providing maintenance dredging services at 15% discount for all major ports in the country has to be accepted. This will strengthen the company and also help the ports to cut down costs. The capital dredging requirements may be tendered in which DCI may also participate. “We also suggested that DCI be made a central dredging agency to cater to all the dredging requirements for the major ports in the country. This will save the ports the avoidable time and efforts of supervising their dredging requirements,” he added.
DCI, under the administrative control of the ministry of shipping, was established in 1976. It is a mini-ratna company with a paid-up capital of `28 crore. The number of regular employees is around 600 with another 600 contract employees. DCI played a key role in providing dredging services to all major ports and the Indian Navy since inception. With a fleet of 17 dredgers of various types, it is the only PSU dredging firm and ranks amongst the top 10 dredging companies in the world.