With wreck removal to precede the dredging operation, the deepening of the approach channel to JNPT will get delayed
The $ 235 million dredging project for deepening the JN port’s approach channel has hit a hurdle and may get delayed by at least three months before the work can take off. The unknown quantity of wreck lying at the bottom of the sea has come in the way of the dredging project. A number of accidents which have taken place in and around the Mumbai harbor and approach channel over the years have contributed to this buildup of wrecks including what is known as the “Great Bombay Explosion” of 12 April 1944 when SS Fort Stikine carrying 1,395 tons of explosives had caught fire and erupted.
Confirming this development L. Radhakrishnan, Chairman of Jawaharlal Nehru Port informed that wreck lying down beneath the sea could include containers and other objects which need to be removed before the dredging operation starts. We are trying to fish them out. The dredging contract with Royal Boskalis includes removal of the wreck up to a particular size. But above that the wreck removal cost will have to be borne by JNPT. Tata Consulting Engineers (TCE), who are consultant to JNPT for the dredging contract will decide on the course of action.
“TCE may probably go to the market and call for bids and decide on giving the wreck removal contract,” Mr Radhakrishnan stated. “If the wreck is too large the dredgers cannot handle it. So we will have to have a separate salvage operation for this purpose. If a tender is floated it will not be a global one and Royal Boskalis can also participate in it. Even if they do we will not give them the contract just like that. Whatever is the competitive bid and all things being equal the contract will be decided. But comparatively it is a small value project.”
Corroborating the development Devdatta Bose, Group Vertical Head – Ports & Transportation, Tata Consulting Engineers Limited stated, “There are over 60 obstructions out there in the approach channel. In fact, we pointed out to JNPT that there are several obstructions lying beneath the sea including that of SS Fort Stikine from which there could be shells, arms, metal parts, and other debris. We are in the process of calling for bids for the purpose of analyzing the market rates. Foreign players will also be participating. However, there will be stringent conditions in the contract among these will be that that the successful bidder will have to complete the wreck removal within 75 to 90 days.”
In the dredging contract Royal Boskalis has to raise the present depth of 11.5 meters of the common navigational channel which serves as the approach to both the Mumbai and Jawaharlal Nehru ports to 14 meters. With the present depth of 11.5 meters the JNPT is able to handle container ships carrying up to 3,000 standard containers that too at high tide. After deepening the channel to 14m it will enable ships with a capacity of loading over 6,000 standard containers to berth.
It is quite possible that the salvaging operation could come up with some rare unexpected results. After all SS Fort Stikine was known to have been carrying a consignment of gold, besides other costly shipment. There could also be a rush to secure relics of the British freighter.