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Major Indian ports are speeding up projects to increase cargo handling capacity

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MUMBAI : The country’s major ports are speeding up projects to raise their cargo handling capacity as they anticipate a jump in export and import traffic in the current financial year and next.

Officials at Kolkata’s Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port, Chennai Port, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), Mundra Port, Thoothukudi’s V.O. Chidambaranar Port and Cochin Port said they are looking to improve cargo handling efficiency and get rid of supply chain bottlenecks in order to handle more capacity.

Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port or Kolkata Port Chairman Vinit Kumar said that the port was working to advance the timelines of the projects, worth nearly Rs 1,700 crore, for augmenting capacity, modernising infrastructure, monetisation of assets and digitisation of operations and creating infrastructure over the next two years.

The port is also expected to expedite the process of issuing tenders to modernise more berths at Haldia and to construct an extended gate to the port at Balagarh 80 km from Kolkata.

While these projects will take time to be implemented, the port has also made some operational changes to lower the waiting time for ships and augment cargo handling. “We are looking to start night navigation of vessels between the pilotage point at Sagar and the Kolkata Dock System in the next six months. Ships will be saving nearly seven to eight hours between Sagar and Kolkata if night navigation is started and this will help increase cargo handling at the port,” another official from the Port Authority said.

JNPT, which operates the country’s largest container port located in Navi Mumbai, has also drawn up ambitious plans for increasing its cargo handling capacity, including adding more railway lines to the port.

Officials from JNPT also said that they are also looking at avenues to modernise the port further and to improve efficiency along with reduced dwell time as part of the port’s long-term expansion plans.

Additionally, JNPT authorities want to revisit their master plan to augment the port’s cargo handling capacity and improve efficiency through remedial measures.

Port authorities are looking to accelerate the timelines of JNPT’s master plan which was drawn up in 2016. One official said the port authorities were looking to accelerate the deadlines of the second and third phases of the 2016 master plan to be executed by the end of 2023-24 and 2028-29. The master plan finalised in August 2016 had divided the work into three phases with deadlines of 2020, 2025 and 2030.

“Since August 2016, there have been various developments at JN Port and no waterfront area is now left for conducting technical feasibility of the projects,” a senior official from the port authority said.

The second phase involves completing the second of the fourth container terminals on the public-private partnership (PPP) model. Currently, this project is under construction.

The third phase aims to have a new multipurpose cargo terminal on the Uran mudflats, terminals in Nhava Creek, the second phase of the additional liquid bulk terminal and setting up a fifth container terminal at Panvel Creek. All of them are under the PPP model.

In Tamil Nadu, Chennai Port is working with the National Highways Authority of India to expedite the construction of an 8-km bridge between Chennai Port and Manali Road-Thiruvottiyur Junction, an official from the port authority said.

He added that the port authority was working to begin execution of the project in the current quarter and complete execution within a year or so as part of decongestions measures.

On the west coast, Mundra Port run by Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) is also preparing to increase cargo handling capacity this fiscal.

APSEZ has obtained environment and coastal regulation zone clearances to raise the capacity at Mundra Port to 385 million tonnes (mt) from 300 mt and is looking to complete two projects to extend its eastern and western breakwater by 500 metres each during the year, an official from APSEZ said.

“Mundra Port is also looking to add four more railway lines to the port in order to improve the movement of traffic from the port,” a source aware of the development said.

The central government is also working with port authorities to facilitate the handling of more cargo in 2022-23. A senior government official said the government is in talks with international container manufacturers like Triton International, the world’s largest container-equipment leasing company, to increase the import of new containers into Indian ports.

The recent disruption at Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port is expected to help Indian ports report increased volumes in 2022-23 after the Indian shipping industry suffered due to the Covid-induced supply chain disruption over the past two years.

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