I have been involved in the Dredging business since 1982 and my mission is to make our clients successful so that they can grow their business and come back to us to buy more dredges. Charles Sinunu, Director - International Dredge Sales, DSC Dredge, USA, elaborates more on the company and its business.
What is the turnover of your company globally?
Over the years our turnover range from $35 to 55 million.
How strong is your footprint in India?
This is an ongoing process. We first entered Indian market about 10 years ago with some of our smaller dredges. In fact, I was in contact with one of our customers working at Visakhapatnam who sent a recommendation that they are satisfied with their DSC dredge which had completed 50,000 hours nonstop. In 2012, I was asked to join a US Department of Commerce on a trade mission that was headed by Francisco Sanchez, Under Secretary for International Trade. They only invited seven companies and we were one among them. This gave me an opportunity for exploring the possibilities in India. The US Department of Commerce authorities set us up with their Gold Key Program where they match you up with what you are looking for like a representative or customers. During that trip, it was clear that India is a huge market.
The challenge for us was that if we want to enter this market, we need to sell our dredges in kit form. We had to build the steel structures in India to be more competitive and to be in compliance with the Build India regulations. This was a win-win situation where we have a transfer of technology and we are creating jobs in India and in the US. It was clear that this was the way we have to go. Since then, we have worked on developing a kit for local dredge production and we have done this in other countries like Bangladesh, UAE and Canada. Currently, we have a lot of enquiries from India and we are in final discussions with several groups and we expect some new orders this year.
How do you visualise the Indian market for dredges, in light of its plans for developing new ports along the eastern coastline and river transport projects?
Certainly there is huge demand for dredges and I know that the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) are active in India. I recently had a conference call with the head of ADB and the US liaison of the US Department of Commerce. I was surprised to find that India is actually the number one recipient of funds from ADB. We are working with the US Department of Commerce to find new opportunities that are funded.
We have a lot of advantages at DSC: We are willing to work with local shipyards in India to use our designs; The shipyards buy the components from us and build the dredges in accordance with our designs. In addition, we use (for example) Metso dredge pumps and Metso has many offices throughout India. So they have spare part and product support in India. I made several trips to India with some Metso representatives and their clients will become our clients also. DSC is the only dredge manufacturer in the world that provides clients with all OEM spare parts information.
Others change the original part numbers to their own part numbers and they hide the names of the original manufacturers of the supplied components. Going forward, since the useful life of a dredge is over 25 years one is locked into single source for parts supplies from the other side of the world. As such, one has to wait for many weeks to source even low value part causing a breakdown. At DSC, our policy is very different. Although we give up a very large and lucrative parts business, we want to support our customers and we think that it is not a good policy to let our customers suffer.
Therefore, we supply all the OEM parts information to our customers so that they can maintain the equipment. If they need a part, they can buy the same locally and be back in operation the same day instead of being shut down for several weeks. Our philosophy is that we want you to be successful, grow your business and you should come back and buy another dredge from us.
That sets us apart from everybody else. In addition, we provide a one year warranty, the longest in the business. The warranty period starts after the equipment is commissioned successfully at site. Others start their warranty from the day they ship the dredge or the date they received your payment. Further, for every dredge we sell, we provide a field service engineer to supervise the assembly at site, launching and training the crew on operation and maintenance (all our dredges are portable so they are transported in knocked down form and at site they have to be assembled. Smaller dredges are shipped in one piece so you can just put them in the water).
Do you have field service engineers stationed in India?
Not yet. For now they fly out from our factory in the US. We will hopefully start in the next quarter when we will be working with an Indian shipyard to build a dredge in India. Our engineer will be at the shipyard to assist in the manufacturing process and to provide training.
What are your plans for developing the Indian market for DSC Dredge?
We recently signed a new representative from Sri Lanka who has travelled to India and identified some new opportunities. We now have eyes and ears on the ground and are actively looking to find new clients. Some clients have been in contact with us for many years. They have our equipment and are looking for new projects. Once they get a new project they will buy our equipment. In addition, the World Bank and ADB have funded many new projects in India which will require some new custom-designed dredges. At DSC, a custom-designed dredge is where we excel.
We have standard products that range from 8 inch pumps up to 24 inch pumps and up to 36 inch as a custom-design. We have also developed custom designs for amphibious dredge. This special dredge can dredge a canal and if it comes across a pedestrian bridge and cannot go under, it can crawl out of the canal, cross the bridge and get back in. For this product we worked jointly with a marsh buggy manufacturer in the US who provided the amphibious under carriage and we provided the upper swing ladder part of the dredge.
We developed the first prototype for a World Bank project in India. Unfortunately, the project did not get final funding approval so the prototype was sold to a customer in Canada. It was so successful, we now have three units working there.
What is the DNA of DSC which has enabled the company win numerous accolades, awards and recognition?
DSC is a world-class leader for customised dredging solutions. For years, DSC was so busy with the US domestic market and the company did not have time to actively pursue the international markets. In 2002, DSC made the decision to look outside the US market and I am proud to say that our exports have gone up from 5 per cent of our sales in 2002 to nearly 65 per cent last year.
What are the solutions DSC can offer in increasing the draft at Indian ports?
We have a complete line of dredges from 8 inch to 36 inch pumps and dredging depths staring from 6 m to 29 m as standard. We even developed recently a custom-dredge for 60 m digging depth, a world record in this hemisphere. Increasing the draft of new ports in India will not be an issue with our dredge digging depth capability. We supply our customers with exactly what they require for their projects. We have dredges in the port of Cartagena in Columbia and dredges operational in the port of Santa Cruz in California.
How many dredges do you have in India?
We have currently five units operational in the country. Then again the potential is very high for many more units. I think our penetration in the Bangladesh market will be helpful in India as well. Right now we are the new on the block. We are hungry, more aggressive and very competitive against the established players who garner a lot of support from their governments.
What is your vision for the next 10 years for India?
For the next 10 years, my vision is to have a manufacturing arrangement in place, whether it is with a current shipyard or a steel fabricator, to build our dredges for the local market.
Many new dredge opportunities are government-driven. The frustration that I have is that most government groups use old technology specs for their tender specifications. To be fair, sometimes they take a page from different manufacturers but then they end up with a one of a kind unproven design which will have very high costs as everybody has to spend engineering time to develop the new design. It would be much more cost effective for all if the project conditions were stated and each manufacturer could bid their proven design to meet the project conditions. This will reduce costs as well as delivery time and the client will have a reliable, proven piece of equipment.