West Bengal has framed a draft maritime policy following formation of a maritime board, which it didn’t have so long though being a maritime state. The state with a coast line and shore line of 158kms has been operating two river based dock systems in Kolkata and Haldia under the aegis of Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT), which has been sustaining operations with dredging subsidies from the Centre. While both the centre and the state has been long been discussing of having a deep draughted port at Sagar, off the coasts of Bay of Bengal, the matter didn’t progress much. West Bengal has now identified a new spot at Tajpur in east Midnapore district, centering which it wants to boost industry, trade, tourism and employment in the state.
Amit Mitra, state finance, industry and commerce minister on Friday said that the state has planned a Rs 10,000 crore port project at Tajpur, with 9 berths, six of which would be constructed in the first phase and rest three in the second phase. The state envisages having industrial parks connecting the port and it has already firmed up plans to better the state highway infrastructure connecting the port.
“The road connectivity to the port would consist of only 7kms of national highway. So we will have to four lane the existing state highway. Besides we will need to take up the matter with the railways to provide rail connectivity,” Mitra said.
While CRISIL has prepared the detail project report, it has not made any firm cargo projection. But it has assessed a rate of return on the basis of West Bengal’s projected economic growth at 12% CAGR, a state industry department official said. Mitra said the government was looking to start construction work by early next year, although partnering has become a contentious issue.
While CRISIL wants to float an RFP in a month or two, following which the process of identifying a partner would start, KoPT, the main stake holder in the state’s maritime business as of now, is a little jittery with the state’s new plan.
A top KoPT official on the condition of anonymity said, if the state wants to make Tajpur a private port, then KoPT would pull out of the Sagar project, in which it has 74% stake. If KoPT was involved as a stake holder in the Tajpur project, then it was willing to continue with the Sagar project too since KoPT would continue to have control over the cargo. But with another private port just 100 kms away, it feared that Sagar would be unviable.
The KoPT and the West Bengal government have already formed a JV, Bhor Sagar Port, to implement the sagar deep draughted port project.
Mitra said KoPT has not send any proposal as yet for participating in the Tajpur port project but a maritime state like West Bengal should have more than one port if another state (meaning Gujarat) in India can have 13 ports.
However, the state was not looking at Tajpur port as standalone project but it was looking at the possibilities of unleashing the whole potential of its entire maritime sector, which could consist of developing green field port, coastal shipping, inland waterway, port based industrialization, ship breaking and ship making. The draft maritime policy has suggested providing a number of incentives for developing the aforesaid projects.
The draft would be made available to the stake holders for comments, state industry secretary Krishna Gupta said.