KoPT to appoint Consultant for Tajpur Port’s feasibility study

Sagar project stays in KoPT’s to-do list as it proceeds with Tajpur port. Soon, KoPT will float a tender to select a consultant for a techno-economic feasibility study of the port. A new rail and road bridge needed to be constructed as the existing one was weak to handle railway freight. Again, after the railway wagon entered Kolkata, another set of railway tracks and a bridge had to be constructed to take the cargo to Kolkata port from where the final evacuation could take place.

KOLKATA: Amid speculation that the deep sea port in Sagar Island is likely to be shelved off to give way to the port in Tajpur coast in West Bengal, the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT), which is in-charge of the project, cleared the air by stating that both of these will be developed in phases and the plan for these ports hasn’t been shelved off. “The work will be done in phases. Tajpur port will come up in the first phase while the other one in the next,” KoPT chairman”, Vinit Kumar said.

The Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) on Thursday said it would likely float a tender to appoint a consultant for the feasibility study of the upcoming Tajpur port. It also said that it registered 12 per cent growth in traffic handling during the April-September period of the current fiscal. “The Kolkata Port handled 27.565 million tonnes (mt) of traffic in April to September of 2017-18 over 24.623 mt handled in the same period last year, recording a high growth of 12 per cent, much higher than the average growth rate of 3.24 per cent clocked by Indian major ports,” KoPT Chairman Vinit Kumar told reporters here.

A senior KoPT official said that the primary issue with the construction of the Sagar Island port is a connectivity issue. A new rail and road bridge needed to be constructed as the existing one was weak to handle railway freight. Again, after the railway wagon entered Kolkata, another set of railway tracks and a bridge had to be constructed to take the cargo to Kolkata port from where the final evacuation could take place. Apart from the port development cost of Rs. 1,500 crore, an estimated Rs. 8,000 crore needed to be incurred for construction and development of this infrastructure.

“Even if we can raise the money, we need to acquire land and get the necessary permits where we need cooperation from the state government. In case it doesn’t, how can we execute the project”, the official said.

The Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) handled 19.124 mt in the first six months of 2017-18, registering a growth of 17.74 per cent over 16.242 mt handled in the corresponding period last year.  In 2016-17, KoPT handled rail-borne traffic of 25.62 mt against 24.42 mt in 2015-16, registering a growth of five per cent.

Asked about future planning for growth, he said: “As far as the issues related to draft are concerned, in Haldia, we are moving out of the in-bounded dock and shifting the parking areas. We are creating terminals outside so that we can take care of the tidal restrictions to some extent.

We have planned to create 15 mt of capacity.”

The authority is also in the process of modernising and upgrading the existing railway network of Kolkata Dock System, which would lead to improved aggregation and evacuation of rail-borne cargo to and from the dock system, he said.

Kumar also said the port had spent around Rs 35 crore in the last two-three years and another Rs 15 crore would be spent this year for the improvement roads network.

According to him, a project has been taken up for laying a second line from the take off point of South Eastern Railway at Durgachak to Haldia Dock Complex rail system at a cost of Rs 105 crore and it is expected to be completed in one and a half year time.

The shipping ministry was keen to develop the port in Sagar Island in the South 24 Parganas in West Bengal, which could cater to the power and steel plants in the eastern region, and containers from the eastern parts of India and neighbouring landlocked countries- Nepal and Bhutan. The port, it was projected, would be a viable alternative to serve as for spill-over cargo, specifically non-POL bulk from the Haldia dock complex, which is operated by KoPT.

The ministry projected that the traffic in that port, once developed, would be around 3.5 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) in 2020 and would have gone up to 27 mtpa by 2035.

While KoPT, after floating the Bhor Sagar special purpose vehicle (where KoPT it has 74 per cent stake and the rest belongs to the West Bengal government) went ahead with the project, the state government proposed development of an alternate greenfield port in Tajpur and wasn’t keen to go ahead with the Sagar Island port.

Compared to the Sagar Island port, infrastructure development for the Tajpur port, which will again be a 15-metre draft deep-sea port, will be less expensive as rail and road network needs to be developed only across a five-kilometre radius. However, coastal connectivity with the dock needs to be put up which will be much costlier than the Sagar Island port.

“The dock for the Tajpur port will be much more costly to construct than the Sagar Port, but Tajpur port offers good connectivity”, J J Biswas, director of the marine department at KoPT said.

In the coming 15-20 days, KoPT will float a tender to select a consultant for a techno-economic feasibility study of the Tajpur project, which is expected to be placed before the shipping ministry in the next 7-10 months.

Kumar said it is only after the study is conducted that a near estimate for construction of the project can be made.

KoPT sources said that both of these ports will be constructed by Bhor Sagar but thereafter, based on a revenue-sharing model, tenders will be floated for selecting a private partner which will equip the port, operate and maintain it.

Earlier, KoPT maintained that both these projects will not be viable at the same time as the distance is too close.

“Nevertheless, traffic movement is increasing and will go up in future days. Each of the ports will have their own share of the pie”, Kumar said.

KoPT handled 27.57 mt of traffic during April-September of the current fiscal year, which is a 12 per cent increase as compared to the 24.62 mt traffic handled in the corresponding months of the last fiscal year.

In terms of ship traffic, it handled 1785 vessels, which is the highest among all the major ports in the country.

The Kolkata Dock System (KDS) handled cargo throughput of 8.441 mt in the first half of the current fiscal as against 8.381 mt in the corresponding period of the last fiscal.

He said the authority has made progress in terms of the proposed Tajpur project in East Midnapore district of West Bengal.

“We are moving forward for the Tajpur port and are going forward for the feasibility report. Probably, in the next 10-15 days, we will float the tender for appointing a consultant for the feasibility study,” he said.

On the proposed Bhor Sagar Port, he said, “Tajpur port will come up in the first phase while Bhor Sagar port in the second phase.”

The proposed Bhor Sagar Port in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district is a 74:26 per cent joint venture between KoPT and the state government.

According to Kumar, the special purpose vehicle (SPV) for the Bhor Sagar project would be the “implementing agency” for the Tajpur port for the “time being” because the SPV for Tajpur project has not been formed till now.

The SPV was supposed to take up deep sea port at Sagar but the studies have identified Tajpur as a better location in terms of viability.

Kumar also said the port has been dealing with issues related to draft and dredging.

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