Kashmir: Dredging Project that never took off

In all major projects, globally the client & consultant work in close cooperation to ensure the timely success of the project in a cost-effective way as the experience, techno commercial knowledge of the consultant executes the clients plan.
Kashmir: Dredging Project that never took off
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Post the devastating floods of Sept 2014, the government woke up by approving the," Comprehensive Flood Management Program" worth a whopping INR 399 Crores. The program among other things included dredging of river Jhelum at various key locations to increase its volumetric retention capacity & ensuring graded river bed right till Wullar. Accordingly tender no 17 of 2015-16 was issued on 30th June 2015 by IFC inviting various companies to bid for the project on turn key basis & the contract was awarded vide LOI no 20586-90 dated 16th Jan 2016 to a little-known Kolkata based company whose website came up in late 2015 (After the award of the project). 

Though the company has listed 4 projects however little has been mentioned about the project competence of the company. Apart from three (3) pictures of CSD's borrowed from Chinese manufacturing companies (As no names or Flags are exhibited) one doesn't see any marine equipment list exhibited which is a pre-requisite for a marine & dredging company qualifying for a volume of 1.6 Million cubic meter solids. 

What went wrong & where

Three constituents of a project plan are:

1- The client.

2- The consultant.

3- The contractor.

The client in this case will constitute IFC, who must come up to the expectations of people through problems highlighted via media. Media has regularly been highlighting the cause only to receive a cold response from the government though a serious effort on the project was observed during the Governors rule.

From the tender document drawing consultants details have been bleakly provided and I naively assume they are not entrusted with the task of complete project consultancy.

Client & Consultant

 In all major projects, globally the client & consultant work in close cooperation to ensure the timely success of the project in a cost-effective way as the experience, techno commercial knowledge of the consultant executes the clients plan.

An insight to the tender documents reveals the, "Overlook" (Deliberate or otherwise) on some key points which were highlighted in my previous article of 31st July 2015 and has caused immense discomfort among general masses who were the worst sufferers of the Sept 2014 deluge. The tender documents seem to be a perfect steno cut & paste, not bothered to even edit the contents that suit the project, mocking the competence of a Government department like IFC, entrusted with such an important fast track project. Aspects like a comprehensive Project Method statement outlining the sequence of dredging, equipment being used for project execution, manpower & competence of the execution staff, maintenance back up, Risk assessment, a detailed Program of work defining important milestones in achieving the project deadline have all been ignored. No penalty clauses or standby penalty has been mentioned in the tender document and to add to the miseries the document precedence has been flawed to ensure overlooking or a deliberate attempt to "favor" some.

While the entire project responsibility lies on the Client certain observations need to be probed:

1- Was a detailed bathymetric survey & soil test report conducted prior or after the project award?

2- Were locations for creating dykes / retention cofferdams identified at suitable locations.

3- Where the required levels & the cross sections thereof approved prior to start of works?

4- Was the vertical & horizontal tolerance of the sections agreed & approved?

5- Was a detailed dredging section plan with equipment schedule approved? 

6- Was program of works defining the major mile stones approved prior to start of works?

7- Was the plan in place to calculate & evaluate volumes dredged which are payable to the contractor? In other words, was a quantity surveyor appointed for the project?

On a project audit note most of the responsibility lies with the client, as it is solely their responsibility to draft a contract which suits their requirements rather than fall prey to outside pressures. They cannot escape the responsibility blaming the contract as a Turn key project which has its limitations in such projects. 

Contractor

The contractor clearly seems inexperienced as his technical Pre-Bid queries dated 9th July 2015 S no 3 & 36 define his competence on the subject added with their lack side attitude as is clearly visible by their inability to mobilize within 15 days as instructed via LOI on 16th Jan 2016. The dredger finally arrived on 8th March 2016 with their Manager declaring it as a major achievement through press briefing while assuring 2 more CSDs of same size would be commissioned before end of Mar 2016.

One strongly feels the contractor only had some old CSDs available which made them convince IFC that use of Backhoe, grab dredger is obsolete & low end technology contrary to what specialists in the field recommend.

CSD commissioned for the project gave an extremely low output which can mainly be attributed to the following reasons:

1- With existing high silt content in the soil, Cutter Suction was not a technically viable solution as silt tends to settle on the wear & face plates of the dredging pump reducing the outputs. It could have been better incase loose sand & silt combination would be pumped instead to increase the abrasive property inside the involute casing mainly on the vanes.

2- Reduced solid content also indicates that the existing cutter ladder length of 12.5 m is impacting the discharge capacity thereby overloading the pump clutch & PTO (Power Take off).

3- The spuds of the dredger have been designed based on 12.5 m dredging depth, since the existing depth is not more than 2.5 m, it would be economical & technically viable to reduce the spud lengths to not more than 7 meters.

4- No anchor handling booms are provided on the dredger which means either the anchoring is done using ropes (Non-directional & very haphazard way of working which will leave huge humps in between) or every time the boat is used for positioning increasing shift time.

5- Based on the contractors committed solid discharge of 250 cum/hour at 1.5 kms, during their media briefing of 9th March 2016, a total volume of Minimum 4000- 4500 cum of solids per dredger per day (keeping 2 hrs./ shift as dredger & pipeline shifting time) was expected totaling to 12,000 to 13,500 cum of solids per day for the project marine spread. Calculations indicate that based on the contractor's commitment a total of 123- 130 days where required to complete the project, contrary  IFC press briefing of Oct 2016 indicates only 150,000 cum of sand was dredged from March 2016 until end of Sept 2016 which means a volume of 23,000 cum of sand was dredged per month as against 390,000 cum in 30 days (Month) effectively proving 5.89 % efficiency of the contractor.

6- Floating pipelines of HDPE being used are incorrectly aligned which decreases back pressure thereby reducing solid discharge.

How can we get the project back on track?

Having discussed in detail the short comings of Client / Consultant & the contractor, it is important to put fourth suggestions that need immediate implementation.

1- Revised program of works with all mile stones specific of location handover.

2- Charter Watermaster dredgers from LAWDA and utilize available pontoons where excavators can be mounted. Being amphibious design Watermaster can support the operations to a good extent.

3- Since the dry spell is continuing in the state, the water levels have receded to extremely low levels dry excavation would be a preferred option for high outputs, done while maintaining the riverbed profile. 

4- Each dredger should have an inbuilt particle flow meter which gives the total discharge of the day including the solids pumped out. Dredge operator needs to maintain a detailed daily log book to ensure correct reporting. IFC/ Consultant should randomly inspect these log books & compare them with the actual quantities stored AFTER DRYING.

5- Cutter head crown teeth need to be inspected as damaged teeth could impact solid output by more than 40%. Damaged teeth need immediate replacement.

6- Reduce the ladder & spud length which could impact the dredger mobility. If the contractor offers excuse to alter, please show him the door as this is a common practice to modify dredgers on site.

7- Procedure for anchor handling needs to be discussed in detail as this is the main LOT (loss of time) in a dredging project. It does seem the contractor is using some "Mickey Mouse" ideas rather than a professional approach.

8- Immediate trifurcation of the balance project areas with a handover deadline for each area.

9- A detailed maintenance plan of the dredgers needs to be submitted by the contractor so that preventive maintenance is carried out regularly thereby reducing downtime.

10- Invoking penalty clause for each calendar days' delay.

11- Contractor needs to mobilize Portable sectional barges with 4-point mooring system for mounting long boom excavators, bucket size not less than 1.2 cum. A CAT or Komastsu PC series 450 & above would be sufficient. It would be recommended to have at least 3 such setups in each section to increase the dredging capacity of the segment. 

12- Grab dredging could be another economical & effective way of increasing the output as each minute the bucket on crane could fetch between 8-10 cubic of solids, solids including debris, rocks, plastics, wood etc. which would be extremely difficult to be handled by a Cutter Suction Dredger either blocking the Cutter crown, pump intake, pump discharge end or even the discharge pipeline.

13- Dump & dredged material stocking area need to come under the control of a neutral observer as it is observed that a nexus exists between the two to increase the quantities.

14- IFC needs to have a full-time Project Director who monitors the progress on daily basis & advises on out of box methods to meet the deadline.

15- A very important aspect would be to maintain depths at dredged locations which would be a great challenge due to approaching rainy season, it would be wise to create expansion areas with higher depths at certain locations which could be cleaned up on completion of works added with high GSM geotextile curtains to prevent silt transportation across the dredged river bed. 

16- Proper pipeline routing will be important for the daily output of the dredger, unplanned & haphazard pipeline will only reduce the discharge capacity.

17- Employ local long boom excavators which can support the dredger excavation from the shoreline mainly & even during winter times by creating temporary causeway to reach inaccessible locations.

Conclusion

Though the conclusion can only be drawn if serious efforts are put in place & the present haphazard" kitchen methods" employed by the contractor (who gets negligible support from in-experienced IFC engineers) are streamlined & monitored by hardcore professionals. It is imperative that the new CE keeps his," no nonsense" approach active so that a clear message is send out to deliver in letter & sprit. 

(The author is a NRK Mechanical Engineer presently working in Middle East with a 160 year old European Marine Company as Division Manager Marine & Coastal Protection and has several major Dredging & Marine Projects to his name, can be contacted on email : munirmufti@yahoo.com)

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