Exclusive interview with Prof. Dr. G.Y.V. Victor, Dredging Corporation of India

Dredging Corporation of India Ltd (DCI), which is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, and National Marine Dredging Company (NMDC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) a couple of weeks ago.

This agreement is set to embark upon projects of mutual benefit and also to share their experience in the dredging operations across India, Bangladesh, Gulf Cooperation Council Countries (GCC), Africa and other parts of the world.

Regarding this, and many other related topics, we caught up with DCI’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Prof. Dr. G.Y.V. Victor, who provided us with invaluable insight into the company’s business and development plans and their most important projects on the horizon.

Prof. Dr. G.Y.V. Victor assumed charge as MD and CEO of DCI in March 2021.

This was the first top management appointment at India’s biggest dredging contractor after the company was acquired by four Centre-owned major port trusts in a strategic divestment deal. In this arrangement, Visakhapatnam Port Trust, Paradip Port Trust, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Deendayal Port Trust acquired the Central government’s 73.47 per cent stake in DCI.

G.Y.V. Victor joined DCI as a dredging cadet in 1991. In his career, he worked for top international and national dredging companies, prior to his selection as DCI MD and CEO.

He also serves as the Secretary General of Eastern Dredging Association India, Eastern Dredging Association board member and the Chairman of Bangla-India Mediators Forum.

Prof. Dr. G.Y.V. Victor

DT: Let’s kick off things with the most recent news. Last month, Dredging Corporation of India (DCI) and National Marine Dredging Company (NMDC) entered into a strategic alliance. What are your expectations of this venture?

Prof. Dr. G.Y.V. Victor: DCI and NMDC entered into a strategic alliance to develop, maintain, operate and manage ports and harbours in the Indian subcontinent and other regions on a mutual consent.

Development and management of port is vital as we can automatically secure maintenance dredging work of these ports on long term basis and shall also secure deepening, widening and expansion dredging work as a ‘preferred contractor’ or on a nomination.

NMDC has established itself in the energy sector and DCI shall endeavor to make a foray into blue and clean energy.

We see this strategic alliance very important as two regional dredging leaders collaboration on a path to share the resources, technical knowledge and equipment – establishing the alliance as strong partners in the region.

In its recent promulgated dredging guidelines, the Government of India proposed to invite dredging tenders for a long term and also to introduce a public-private partnership (PPP) model in the maintenance and capital dredging contracts.

Therefore, we entered into strategic alliance with NMDC that was long time pending – for last two decades.

DCI photo

DT: Overall, 2020 and 2021 were challenging around the globe in many ways, how did your company sail through that period?

Prof. Dr. G.Y.V. Victor: Pandemic, coupled with recession of projects financing nature, had its impact globally and the dredging sector is no exception.

However, dredging sector per-se is an infrastructure industry and therefore, the sector has connections with other industry entities like ports and harbours – if one part of the chain is disturbed, the entire chain will collapse.

Of course, we had some impact due to the pandemic, but I should admit that the impact is not very severe on the dredging industry. Yes, it included prolonged delay in crew change due to imposition of lockdowns by the states, delay in supply of spare parts, etc.

In this pandemic, the project efficiency reduced and in some projects the completion date was extended, and in spite of all of these factors, DCI positively sailed through the pandemic phase by supporting the dredgers staff, projects, close monitoring of health of all the seafarers etc.

Royal IHC photo

DT: Cochin Shipyard is set to build two large-capacity dredgers for DCI, with an option for a third dredger. Our readers would love to find out more about this plan?

Prof. Dr. G.Y.V. Victor: We received an approval from the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways to build two 12,000m3 trailing suction hopper dredgers (TSHDs), and the third dredger capacity shall be based on the market requirement to achieve the goals of Maritime Vision 2030.

The dredgers will be built under “Make in India” – “Atma Nirbhar Bharat” at Cochin Shipyard and these vessels will be the first TSHDs to be constructed in any Indian shipyard.

The Government of India will provide ship building subsidy, part of the funding from financial institutions under ECA, part of the funding by issuing debentures and for the balance part we are discussing with Promoter Ports and Banks for either equity/debt funding.

We will be placing our order on Cochin Shipyard in next three to four weeks after price negotiation.

The capacity augmentation is paramount in attaining self reliant to achieve Maritime Vision 2030. At the moment, DCI has cumulatively 59,000m3 hopper capacity for a maintenance market of 90 million m3, therefore it is necessary to augment hopper capacity.

Cochin Shipyard photo

DT: What is in the pipeline at the moment and what are you and your team currently working on?

Prof. Dr. G.Y.V. Victor: Apart from our regular maintenance dredging tasks, we are working closely with the Government for developing ports, capital dredging, desilting reservoir and dam, development of fishing harbours.

We are also working on the coastal development projects, on beneficial use of dredged material, undertaking surveys, geophysical and geotechnical works.

DCI is in the process of transforming into a “preferred contractor”.

Also, the company is set to undertake dredging and maintenance of all harbours and ports in Lakshadweep, to take over works on the fishing harbours of two states and has plans to expand into inland waterways maintenance, flood control management and desiltation of other water bodies.

DT: Do you believe that dredging industry can make a difference in improving the environment’s quality, and what is your opinion on this?

Prof. Dr. G.Y.V. Victor: I agree with you that dredging industry can make a difference in improving the environment quality and this is a vision and goal of Maritime Vision 2030, envisaged by the Government of India, and DCI is heading the initiative.

Today, dredging techniques and methodology are based on scientific and technology proven models.

The main DCI’s goal is to execute the works within the threshold frequency and to carry out environment-friendly dredging activities in India, in line with environmental compliance.

DCI photo

DT: Sustainability now comes in many forms, and as one the world’s largest dredging companies, you have knowledge, data and expertise to make a positive difference. What are your priorities when it comes to creating sustainable dredging solutions?

Prof. Dr. G.Y.V. Victor: For DCI, sustainability includes three aspects of resources: non-renewable, renewable and waste disposal.

It is important for the clients and a dredging contractor to take care that the depletion of a non-renewable resource should require the development of a renewable substitute for that resource. All stakeholders should be engaged at the earliest conceptual stage in the project’s development.

Active collaboration is the key to achieving maximum social, environmental and economic benefits.

More specifically, the scientifically based criteria, performance guidelines and environmental safeguards for dredging and dredged material management should provide clear direction to the project owners, planners and executing companies.

Dredged material management should be based upon a holistic and systematic approach, understanding the ecosystem and natural processes in the project.

Therefore, Maritime Vision 2030 envisages that the action plan for achieving sustainable dredging should involve:

  • achieving zero pollution in the ecosystem through adoption of environment friendly methodologies and to adopt latest technology of hydrography for optimum output (2021-2025);
  • adopting long term mechanism, including procurement of vessels and a process of the dredging technology upgrades (2025-2030).

Photo: DCI