Kolkata Port Trust(KoPT) is yet to sign a fresh contract for dredging with the Dredging Corporation of India(DCI) after the last one expired in March 2007.
Negotiations are on since then, and the contract period was initially extended till December 31 this year.
It has been eventually extended 'till such time a new contract is signed', informed A K Bagchi, director, marine,KoPT.
"KoPT is asking for at least six dredgers for the channel round the year, as against five dredgers in the previous contract.", Bagchi said. According to the old contract, DCI was expected to maintain a 5 meter(m) depth at Jellingham bar that used to be the governing bar for the entire channel.
DCI was contracted to deploy five full time and one part-time dredger for four lean months of the year. It could,however,engage only three dredgers for most part of this current fiscal.
Of late, the Auckland bar had started drawing more than 50 per cent of the dredging activity as the tail of Nayachara island was protruding towards this bar bringing down the depth at that point dramatically. "According to the contract, we could actually dis-incentivise DCI in case it fell short of maintaining a 5m depth at Jellingham.But, as it had to divert its dredgers to Auckland in the face of an unforeseen situation, we have not been able to do that.", Bagchi said. Currently, the depth at Jellingham was 3.9m while it was 4.3m at Auckland. DCI was not keen give a depth gurantee under current situations, when siltation rates were very high.
The port had to complete its capital dredging activities before maintenance dredging by DCI ships could help.Moreover, port officials also informed that the central government dredging outfit was insisiting for a three-year contract, in place of a long term one.
KoPT has paid DCI at the rate of per vessel per day multiplied by the number of days they have been working on the channel. "The charge for each vessel varied depending on its efficiency. In all we have paid less than Rs300 crore per year during the five year contract period between 2002 and 2007.", Bagchi added.
Currently, seven dredgers were working on the channel including one cutter-suction dredger at one oil-jetty. KoPT was expecting a fleet of 10 dredgers by December-end.
"Dredger-14 is likely to arrive from Vizag by the middle of January. And as for chartering two Chinese dredgers, the respective companies have sent proposals to DCI that will assess the technical parameters.", Bagchi clarified. Formalities for chartering could be complete by March.
KoPT was paying 7.5 per cent of the dredging bill raised by chartered vessels to DCI as consultancy fees.