Commissioned in 1870, the journey of the first major as well as the only riverine port of the country continues through the tortuous process of ebb and tide, expectancy and challenges, intricately woven with the varying draft and other morphological dynamics of the river Hooghly which cradles it.
Kolkata Port, which celebrated its 147th birthday in 2017, was once the premier port of the country but faced a steady decline in its fortunes since 1966-67, with competition from the neighbouring sea ports and the challenges of river draft, bends and bores and lock restrictions proving a growing impediment for larger ships with higher DWT to visit the docks. However, due to its adaptability and the time tested abilities to gravitate southwards and create sister dock systems/ anchorages to harness its deep drafted facilities and the huge potential in respect of movement of cargo through Inland Water Transport (IWT) mode, it could keep its stern adrift as it continued to re-engineer itself in newer locales and diversifying functions.
With a slew of new investments and value driven initiatives unfurled by the Government and trade expectations also picking up, it’s most heartening to note that Kolkata Port has been maintaining a rising trend of traffic in recent times, clocking a CAGR of around 7.2% in maritime traffic during the last three years. Kolkata Port handled 50.951 million tonnes (mt) of traffic in 2016-17, up by 23% since 2013-14. Interestingly, our Kolkata Dock System, one of the port’s twin dock systems and the continuing legacy of the historic port of Kolkata, handled an all time high cargo traffic of 16.810 mt in 2016-17 while HDC, our sister dock, too handled 34.141 mt in 2016-17, sustaining a consistently secular growth trend in traffic in last few years. In container traffic too, KoPT donned the mantle of recording a high of 7,71,676 TEUs in 2016-17, clocking an over 16% growth vis-à-vis last year, while retaining its 3rd rank amongst major container handling Ports, for several years in a row. This has been possible due to a robust performance by HDC, having registered a near 60% jump in handling containers in 2016-17 over last year. Incidentally, KDS also achieved the highest ever container throughput of 6,35,848 TEUs in 2016-17, a significant hike of 10% over the last year. Our port continued to handle the highest number of vessels in the major port circuit.
Let me recount some of the feathers that KoPT has recently adorned in her many splendored cap :-
• KoPT was adjudged ‘Major Port of the Year’ in Gateway Award 2016 on 12.8.16 for impressive growth and performance.
• On 12.5.16, KoPT was awarded the 3rd rank for highest growth in traffic in 2015-16 at the review meeting of Secretary (Shipping), MoS.
• KoPT was adjudged Container Port of the year for 2015-16 by EXIM Group in Kolkata on 6.5.16.
• Haldia Dock Complex was awarded the First Prize and Kolkata Dock System Fourth in the Inter-Port assessment of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, 2016-17.
• HDC has already registered herself as the pioneer among Indian Major Ports in the ‘Go – Green’ initiative in the use of eco-friendly Bio-diesel, in operative locomotives, cargo handling/ fire-fighting equipment, as it received the prestigious award as the 1st Green Port of country by Bio-Diesel Association (Bio Fuel'15) on 10.9.15.
A well diversified shelf of investment, comprising schemes, aimed at improvement of operational efficiency/capacity augmentation, viz. integrated development of infrastructure including road/rail connectivity/storage and yard logistics aimed at faster aggregation/dispersal of cargo traffic, setting up of Riverine terminals and floating Barge Jetties outside the impounded docks of HDC to handle barge traffic emanating from/destined to the transshipment anchorages, setting up of LNG handling facilities, mechanisation of berths, integrated container handling at KDS and HDC, new VTM System alongwith AIS with interfacing/ integration, installation of RFID, augmentation of IT & IT enabled services have been/are being taken up through DBFOT /non-PPP/Contract/Grant of permission mode, some of which are already commissioned/under implementation, while the rest are in various stages of tendering etc.
To ensure improved productivity and faster turnaround and reduced deadfreighting of the gearless vessels carrying dry bulk cargo, we have already equipped quite a few of our berths inside the impounded dock at HDC with Mobile Harbour Cranes viz Berths 4B, 2 & 8 & 13. Also with an aim to augment the capacity of dry and liquid bulk handling and ensure faster turnaround of vessels with improved handling rates, we have recently placed LoA/orders for setting up of Liquid Cargo Handling Jetty at Salukkhali, Haldia Dock-II on DBFOT basis and construction of Outer Terminal-II for handling Edible Oil and Chemicals, while order of award (through DBFOT basis) is expected by early 2018 for development of Outer Terminal-I for handling dry bulk cargo, all outside impounded docks, which, while augmenting substantially the cargo handling capacity will also ease the pressure on the lock systems. Integrated ship-to-shore services including back-up operations at 3, 4, 5, 7 & 8 NSD at KDS and integrated container operations at Berths Nos. 10 & 11 of HDC have already been commissioned which, among other reasons, has resulted in surge of container throughput. Commissioning of Floating Riverine Barge Jetty in the upstream of 3rd Oil Jetty outside the impounded dock, for handling dry bulk traffic, being transported through the daughter vessels from the transloading/transshipment points, is expected shortly. Deployment of floating crane facilities at Sagar aimed at bringing additional cargo at Sagar draft to be transported through barges at HDC, is expected to be commissioned shortly. The full fledged commissioning of these facilities with synchronised functioning of the outer riverine terminals in near future is expected to bring additional cargo at HDC, logical to it at matching draft, through daughter vessels and barges, while serving the cluster of industries and power utilities in and around the port city of Haldia, at a much reduced logistics cost.
For effectively harnessing the deep drafted facilities of the port, we have granted permission for setting up Floating Storage & Regasification Unit/ Floating Storage Unit (FSRU) for receiving, storing, regasifying and transporting LNG from mother vessels at Sandheads to a suitable landfall point. In view of the unique riverine potentials of the Kolkata port and in tandem with the ambitious Sagar Mala project, around 61 acres of land has been awarded on long term lease basis to IWAI for development of IWT Hub at Haldia. Various land parcels are being allotted to captive users on the basis of Minimum Guaranteed Tonnage (MGT).
With customer as its focus, developments and projects for leveraging IT and ITeS are in full swing, aimed at improved efficiency in port management by introducing web-based applications and interfaces, thus ensuring wide coverage among our clienteles and reduced transaction cost of port users. In this respect, implementation / enhancement of POMS/ PCS and provision for catering to online queries from port users on the Port’s website are some of the notable areas. This has been further strengthened by implementation of various application software modules, like, Finance / Hospital / Materials Management / Estate Rental Billing & Recovery, implementation of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) Telephony, augmentation of IT infrastructure, etc and implementation of e-Procurement solution. These would be followed by a comprehensive implementation of ERP solution on cloud. Other major ongoing projects include introduction of CCTV Surveillance Systems, GIS-based Estate Management, RFID based Vehicle Tracking and Aadhaar based Biometric Attendance System.
Our Port is the pulsating lifeline of trade and has been discharging its responsibility efficiently in promoting the country’s maritime trade. The process of churning a new and expansive trading hub, on a port-centric customer base with matching logistics and competitive facilities/tariff structure, is one of the defining challenges the port faces in the years ahead. The host of schemes currently under formulation of the ambitious Sagarmala Project of the Government of the India aim to tap the coastal/IWT/maritime potential of the country along with unleashing of enterprise/opportunities in various port-led economic clusters in an energy-efficient way. The ‘Look-East Policy’ of the country, the proposed Trans-Asian Railway corridor, opening of India-China road and proximity to Lhasa etc, I am hopeful, will contribute to making Kolkata again a dynamic and throbbing hub port of the region.