KoPT looking at mid-stream container handling facility

Written by Indronil Roychowdhury | Kolkata | Updated: Jun 29 2010, 06:37am hrs
Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) is mulling creating a mid-stream container handling facility in tandem with the shipping ministry's plan to give boost to containerisation or making break bulk cargo amenable to containers in India, which at present is 45% against the global average of 70%. The ministry wants containerisation in India to reach close to the global average in another 2-3 years.

ML Meena, KoPT chairman, said KoPT wanted to develop mid-stream container handling adopting the public-private partnership model.

We will first have to do a techno-economic feasibility study, only after which we can finally take a decision on this project, Meena said.

Mid-stream container handling is shifting containers from one ship to another on the sea or the water itself without coming to the berth. Although it was a popular concept during the mid-70s, most of the ports worldwide discarded the scheme for the high risks involved in it. At present, only the port of Singapore, the world's largest container port, carries out mid-stream container handling.

Meena said KoPT's actual plan was to develop a mid-stream container handling facility, which would be integrated with the existing container handling facilities at the Kolkata Dock System and Haldia Dock Complex.

In fact, the container traffic handled by KoPT comes in feeder ships from Colombo and Singapore, which functions as its relay port. Due to draught constraints big container ships cannot enter the Kolkata and Haldia dock systems and though JNPT is congested with container traffic, ships are forced to enter that port.

While JNPT handles an average 4 million TEUs a year, KoPT handles 4 lakh TEUs. But there are enough opportunities for KoPT to grow container handling because a big chunk of container cargo originating from North India can come to KoPT instead of travelling to JNPT. Besides, KoPT has already started talking with the National Highway Authority of India to create a dedicated freight roadway, that can connect Kolkata Dock System with NH-6.

Officials said KoPT's prospects lies in handling containers and that more than 34 global shipping lines, including leaders like Maersk, Mitsui, American Shipping Line, Shipping Corporation of India, Ceylon Shipping Corporation, United Arab Shipping and others are operating with containers in Kolkata and Haldia.

However, a mid- stream container handling facility would help KoPT's container traffic growth much faster and large container ships could directly call KoPT without using Singapore and Colombo as relay ports, officials said.

Meanwhile, Meena on the sidelines of a CII programme said KoPT has firmed up plans to create a SAIL- SCI and KoPT consortium for developing trans-loadinging facility to handle coking coal and would soon send a formal proposal to the ministry. KoPT was looking at the possibilities of integrating Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) with its thermal coal handling activities since the West Bengal Power Development Corporation Ltd (WBPDCL) has already evinced interest to carry some of its imported thermal coal to its plant at Santhaldihi by barges through inland waterways.

According to Meena, if WBPDCL finally carries its imported coal through barges on an experimental basis and if it is successful then NTPC may also adopt that mode for taking imported coal to its plant at Farakka.

KoPT protest

KoPT officers have decided to go on a mass casual leave on July 5 in protest against the ministry's inordinate delay in making pay revision of class I and class II officers. An officers' association of KoPT has already written to the shipping ministry that the class I and class II officers would sit on a fast on June 30 and take mass casual leave in July if the government didn't resolve the issue of pay revision immediately. On Monday, the officers protested the government's delay wearing black badges. Chairman ML Meena, however didn't want to comment on the issue.