KOLKATA, 11 February, 2009: There is good news for West Bengal. Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) is planning to set up a series of terminals around Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) to facilitate handling of barges and ships. Expressions of interest have already been invited from private parties for four barge terminals under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme.
KoPT chairman Dr A K Chanda has also written to the state government, seeking land at Shalukkhali and Kukrahati on the west bank of the Hooghly for terminals to handle large ships. "Surveys have already been conducted and if things move according to plan, the barge terminals should become operational in the next one and a half years. These terminals will facilitate the movement of cargo transloaded at other ports, to West Bengal and promote coastal shipping as well as inland water transport," Chanda said.
According to senior HDC officers, major port users like CESC Ltd have welcomed the move as this will facilitate easier movement of cargo like thermal coal for its power plant coming up in Haldia. It is a win-win situation for all sides as ships will no longer have to depend on the lockgate to enter HDC. They can unload their cargo onto barges on the Hooghly itself and turn back. At a later stage, the ships can also berth at Shalukkhali and Kukrahati where draught is expected to be nearly 10 metres. An officer said that this may also give rise to a new class of vessel the Haldiamax that will be wider and flatter than normal seagoing vessels.
At present, HDC has 13 berths for handling dry bulk cargo and containers. In addition, there are three oil jetties outside the lockgate. The lockgate can be operated only about 8-10 times a day. This allows not more than five vessels to enter the confines of HDC. An equal number leave the port. Once jetties are built outside HDC, more ships can be handled without any additional use of the lockgate. "Presently, we handle 6,300 tonnes of cargo per day at Haldia. To compete with other ports, we will have to increase this by at least three times. There is also tremendous potential for inland water transport (IWT) as this region is close to two National Waterways. In days to come, land acquisition for roads and railways will be a big problem and IWT may turn into the best option.
Unfortunately, there is no scheme to provide road connectivity to IWT jetties. At present the volume of traffic moved through inland waterways is nearly one million tonnes. There is potential to move 70-80 million tonnes," Chanda said while addressing Shiport East 2009, a seminar organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce. Captain PVK Mohan, chairman, National Shipping Board, pointed out that coastal shipping is not receiving the kind of importance it deserves. "This is one of the reasons why cruise shipping has not taken off. Unless we exploit our vast coastline, the economy will not improve. Ports like Haldia will have to give priority berthing to coastal ships," he said.