Having clocked the highest rate of growth (12.4%) among Major Ports (MPs) on the east coast in the first seven months of the fiscal, the Kolkata port is on the move. To maximise its potential have been lined up a host of projects for the Kolkata Dock Systems (KDS) and Haldia Dock Complex (HDC), its two branches, involving an outlay of Rs 1,050 crore. In FY17, Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) notched the 6th rank (from 7th) among MPs, with cargo volumes of 50.951 million tonnes. In the April-September period, KoPT handled 1,785 ships, the highest among MPs. Its container throughput is also on the rise. Although inadequate draught has stood in the way of KoPT handling vessels of higher parcel size, the port’s strategic connectivity to National Waterways-1 (NW1) and National Waterways-2 (NW2) gives it an edge that it is seeking to make the most of. It is this connectivity that helped it tide over earlier threats of closure. The investments the port has in the pipeline are aimed at improvement in operational efficiency, capacity upgrade, integrated infrastructure development and facilitation of ease of doing business.
For integrated infrastructure development have been envisaged rail-road connectivity, creation of additional storage and logistics capacity, setting up of riverine terminals and floating barges. Floating-pipeline handling facilities, setting up of LNG handling facilities and mechanisation of berths are also among the projects under this category. Says Vineet Kumar, KoPT’s new chairman, “projects like the Rs 200-crore LNG facility at Haldia, a Rs 44-crore hard-stand area inside the Haldia Dock and replacement of fenders inside the Haldia dock at a cost of Rs 20 crore were ordered in FY17. These are in progress”. At KDS, modernisation of railway tracks has been undertaken at a cost of Rs 46.59 crore under the Sagarmala project. This is expected to be complete by April, 2018. A second railway line is planned at a cost of Rs 78.84 crore. The Railway Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL) is expected to complete the project in September, 2019. Under the rubric of completed projects are the commissioning of mobile-harbour cranes for ship-to-shore handling at Haldia at a cost of Rs 50 crore and replacement of lock gates in Kolkata at a cost of Rs 10.04 crore.
Other projects like deployment of a floating crane at Sagar at a cost of Rs 65.36 crore and setting up of a floating-cargo handling facility at Haldia at a cost of `73 crore are likely to be executed by the end of the current fiscal. Initiatives like construction of a `158 crore flyover to improve road connectivity at HDC, creation of a `300-crore multimodal inland water transport hub and a go-green drive are aimed at better cost and work efficiency. “These projects have been conceived to exploit KoPT’s potential, given that its large hinterland serves Nepal, Bhutan, the North East and eastern India. The port has fantastic connectivity and improving it further would provide the best of logistics solutions to port users. Inland waterways is being used to carry cement, coal, oil and even vehicles to various destinations in the east, north and the North East. KoPT can play a major role in boosting inland water transport,” says MT Krishna Babu, until recently the KoPT chairman, and the chairman of Vizag Port Trust.