Kolkata, Haldia ports gear up with Rs 1,650-crore investment to compete with Orissa’s Dhamra port

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Kolkata | Updated: April 6, 2017 3:47:20 AM

The Kolkata and Haldia ports are gearing up to stay in competition with the Dhamra Port, off the coast of Orissa, which began operations of its container terminal from beginning of this month.

The Kolkata and Haldia ports are gearing up to stay in competition with the Dhamra Port, off the coast of Orissa, which began operations of its container terminal from beginning of this month. The Dhamra Port poses a threat of shifting container cargo from the twin ports under KoPT.

While KoPT’s Haldia arm is betting high on the transloading facility it has installed for handling bulk cargo, the Kolkata port has firmed up plans to invest `1,650 crore over a period of three years to construct additional berths outside the lock gates.

The berths outside the lock gates will reduce waiting time for the ships, thus saving on the demurrage charges the shippers have to bear. Since Haldia is a river port, ships have to wait for upto two and a half days for tidal flow to leave the port, although unloading is completed within a day and a half. Berths outside the port will reduce this compulsory waiting, M T Krishna Babu, chairman of both KoPT and Visakhapatnam Port Trust told FE.

The Kolkata port witnessed a 9.8% year- on- year increase in container handling while for Haldia, it was 58.76%. Overall cargo in Haldia, however, increased only 1.93% y-o-y since handling of POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) dipped -13.67% and coking coal by -6.5%. Haldia handled a total cargo of 32.85 million tonne in FY 17 against 32.22 mt in FY 16. For Kolkata, cargo saw a dip of -5.35% y-o-y, vegetable oil by -25%, other liquids down by -14% and pulses & others by -13%. Coking coal, to some extent, has been diverted to Dhamra and Paradip, Babu said.

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Babu added that in such a situation the KoPT cannot afford to lose a container or any other cargo and therefore it has to give leverage to its inherent strength of large hinterland and faster railway evacuation, for which Haldia still remains attractive to a number of shippers. For 25,000-tonne vessels, Haldia is still cheaper, Babu said, outlining that rail rake availability is very good in Haldia compared to Dhamra or Paradip.

While Haldia has opted for a transloading facility to be able to handle big panamax vessels with the help of daughter vessels, handling charges are crossing `1,000 per tonne. The national average, for handling coking coal, works out to an average of `300 per tonne. But in Haldia, without transloading, the cost works out be `350 – 400 per tonne since handlers like Ripley levy additional charges of `60-70 per tonne on shippers.

However, with the Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP) and KoPT revising rates, handling with the help of the transloader has been made possible at `700 per tonne. This makes KoPT competitive with the Dhamra port because the rail freight from Haldia to Kharagpur offsets the carrying cost from Dhamra to Kharagpur, Babu reasons.

KoPT has targeted SAIL and the Tatas as customers of its transloader as both the companies can effectively utilise its 6 million tonne capacity.

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