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Adani Ports seeks approval to build two new berths at Kattupalli Port

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AHMEDABAD : Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ) has decided to pursue the original master plan for expanding Kattupalli port near Chennai by seeking permission to construct two more berths with an investment of Rs2,100 crores as resistance from fishermen and green activists stall an earlier move to turn the port it acquired from Larsen & Toubro Ltd in 2018 into a mega port.

Kattupalli Port has approval for constructing five berths with a total quay (berth) length of 1,900 metres, per the original master plan.

Of this, three berths were constructed and are operational with Berths 1 and 2 used for container handling, project cargo and roll-on, roll-off (Ro-Ro) cargo. Berth 3 is a multipurpose berth used for handling break bulk/ general cargo and non-hazardous liquid cargo.

Currently, Kattupalli Port handles containers from two berths with quay length of 710 meters, 6 quay cranes, 15 rubber-tyred gantry cranes, 5,120 ground slots with the capacity to handle 1.2 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) a year.

In June 2018, APSEZ acquired Kattupalli Port from Larsen & Toubro for Rs 1,950 crore after India’s biggest engineering and construction firm demerged the shipyard and the captive port (later allowed to handle commercial cargo per the port policy of Tamil Nadu government) to facilitate the sale.

Marine Infrastructure Developer Pvt Ltd (MIDPL) proposes to develop the remaining approved two berths (berth no 4 and berth no 5), converting the berth no 3 into container berth, craft berths, port craft facilities and associated backup yard facilities, along with dredging port areas from 16 metres to 16.7 metres and navigational channel from 16 metres to 17.5 metres, to tap the huge potential for container, liquid, and bulk business, the Company said in an application filed with the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) in the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, seeking nod to start the environment clearance process.

Marine Infrastructure Developer Pvt Ltd (MIDPL) is 97 percent owned by Adani Kattupalli Port Pvt Ltd, a unit of APSEZ, India’s biggest private port operator.

The planned expansion, according to APSEZ, will have flexibility to accommodate all berths (existing as well as proposed) as multipurpose by maintaining the same capacity of 24.65 million tonnes (mt) approved previously.

The construction of two more berths at Kattupalli Port does not require additional land as they are proposed on the seaward side and the cargo storage area will be beyond the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) area. The change in land use pattern will be limited to the proposed berth area development per the approved land use of the project, spread over 136.28 hectares of industrial land.

Following the expansion, Kattupalli Port will handle 16.6 mt of containers, 0.07 mt of Ro-Ro automobiles, 0.44 mt of project cargo, 2.5 mt of liquid cargo and 5 mt of multipurpose cargo.

In December 2023, the EAC recommended the proposal for grant of Terms of Reference (ToR) with exemption from holding public hearing by following some specific conditions as well as all the standard ToR conditions applicable for such projects, according to a document seen by ET Infra.

APSEZ had sought exemption from public hearing per MoEF&CC notification of March 2021 whereby projects that have implemented more than 50 percent of construction to develop berths such as 4 and 5 at Kattupalli Port with associated dredging activities to increase depth in berth and navigational areas, are exempted from public hearing stipulation.

In 2019, APSEZ filed a revised master plan with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to begin the process on environmental and CRZ approval for ramping up capacity of Kattupalli Port located in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvallur district to 320 mt with an investment of as much as Rs53,031 crore.

The mega expansion involves building 9,567 metres of additional quay length besides another 1,250 metres of quay for barge berths and 12 port craft facilities in phases. The total quay length proposed as a part of the revised master plan development was 11,467 metres in addition to 1,250 metres long barge berths and two single point moorings or SPM’s.

APSEZ also planned to develop port back-up industries and industrial development areas and its associated infrastructure, based on business requirements.

The revised master plan development of Kattupalli Port was intended to be carried out over 2,472.85 hectares, including 133.50 hectares of existing area, 761.8 hectares of government land, 781.4 hectares of private land and sea reclamation of 796.15 hectares.

The planned expansion was designed to make Kattupalli India’s deepest port with an average berth depth of as much as 25 metres.

Apart from the existing breakwater, two new breakwaters of about 12.1 km length were proposed, of which the new Northern breakwaters will be about 9.02 and 1.22 kms and the new Southern breakwater will be about 1.86 kms.

For easy evacuation of cargo, a new rail, road and utility corridor was also proposed within the existing port boundary. The rail line will connect Kattupalli Port with nearby southern rail link at Ennore railyard and proposed Northern Rail Link at L&T spur location.

Parallel to the revised master plan development, to cater to immediate cargo evacuation requirement, connection to southern rail link was being taken up that require separate CRZ clearance.

The mega expansion, though, ran into opposition from fishermen and green groups.

“The expansion plans have not yet happened due to stiff resistance from the public,” said a port industry expert, tracking the project.

“APSEZ is trying to address the issues, but it is not materialising easily because fishermen and the Pulicat Lake issues have been raised by environmental activists to block the mega expansion of the port. The expansion will take time because it’s a social issue, so they must tread carefully. It’s a good project, but only one thing can happen, either you need development, or you need welfare of fishermen; you can’t have both,” he stated.

Pulicat Lake is India’s second largest brackish water lagoon.

Given this standoff, APSEZ is trying to rework the strategy on expansion of Kattupalli Port in the short term.

The delay in securing environmental clearance for the mega expansion of Kattupalli Port, was also one of the reasons that led APSEZ to acquire Krishnapatnam and Gangavaram ports in Andhra Pradesh.

The move to convert berth no 3 at Kattupalli Port which is currently handling break bulk/general cargo and non-hazardous liquid cargo, into a container berth, fits well with APSEZ’s strategy to shut container operations at Krishnapatnam Port and focus on the Chennai cluster, where it has facilities in Kamarajar (Ennore) and Kattupalli ports, to boost its container business, the industry expert mentioned earlier said.

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