Odisha’s port sector hangs in balance

Bhubaneswar, May 19 (IANS) The Odisha government had proposed to develop 13 ports along its 480-km-long coastline. But except for the Dhamra and Gopalpur ports, no substantial development has taken place over the past several years and its desire to become a maritime trade hub has met with several hurdles.

The state government proposed five ports in Balasore’s Bichitrapur, the Subarnarekha’s confluence (Kirtania), Bahabalpur, Chandipur and Inchudi. Besides, proposals were made for construction of ports at Chudamani and Dhamra in Bhadrak district and at Palur, Gopalpur and the Bahuda’s confluence in Ganjam district.

The other two ports were in the Astarang and Baliharchandi area in Puri district and at the Jatadhar’s confluence of Jagatsinghpur district.

Of these proposals, Dhamra port, a joint venture between Tata Steel and Larsen & Toubro (now owned by Adani Group), and Gopalpur port are operational other than the Paradip port — the oldest and fully operational such in the state.

At least two planned ports have hit a wall of uncertainty with the defence ministry objecting to the commercial ports on security grounds. The ministry is opposing the proposed ports at Chandipur and Inchudi in Balasore district, a commerce department official said.

Since the locations of these proposed ports fall under missile testing range of the Defence Research and Development Organisaton (DRDO), there has been no progress in developing them, the official added.

The state government has already signed a Concession Agreement (CA) for development of three ports at Dhamra, Gopalpur and the Subarnarekha’s mouth. Besides, MoUs have been signed for development of a port by Posco at Jatadhari’s mouth in Jagatsinghpur district, Astaranga in Puri district and Chudamani by the Aditya Birla group in Bhadrak district.

However, there is uncertainty over Posco’s proposed port project at an investment of about Rs.5,000 crore. Since its proposed 12-million-tonne steel project has temporarily been put on hold, the company is unlikely to develop the captive port that was meant to cater to the import-export needs of the project.

“Posco has temporarily put on hold the proposed steel project in Odisha,” Industry Minister Debi Prasad Mishra told the assembly recently. Besides, a case has been pending in Orissa High Court for the past five years challenging the state government’s 2004 Port Policy.

The Hyderabad-based Navayuga Engineering Company Ltd is developing the port at Astaranga in Puri district at an investment of Rs.3,500 crore.

“We have already requested the NHAI (National Highways Authority of India) and the railway ministry for road and rail connectivity to the port. We have urged the centre to grant environment clearance to set up the proposed port. But there is a land acquisition hurdle as some locals have managed to get a stay order,” Commerce minister Ramesh Majhi told IANS.

He said the state government is trying to get vacated all the court orders that are hindering the development of the state’s port sector.

The Chennai-based Creative Port Development, which is developing a port at Kirtania, is also facing a land acquisition hurdle. “While acquisition is under process, the land has not been transferred to the company as a case is pending in the Orissa High Court,” the minister informed.

Meanwhile, a technical and economic review was carried out on the proposed port at Baliharchandi while surveys have also been conducted for the proposed ports at Bahabalpur, the Bahuda’s confluence and at Bichitrapur.

A perception has gone around that several developers are not interested due to the restriction on the export of iron ore, but Dhamra Port CEO Subrat Tripathy disagreed.

“We can’t say that port developers are not interested to invest in Odisha. There is need to create infrastructure and smoothen land acquisition for the port sector,” Tripathy said.Adani Group-owned Dhamra Port Company Ltd (DPCL) witnessed a decrease in cargo handling in 2015-16 due to hurdles in the export of iron ore. It handled 14.8 million tonnes in 2015-16 against 15 million tonne in 2014-15, Tripathy said.

The second phase of the port’s expansion is in progress for creating 13 berths to handle all types of cargo.

Meanwhile, Paradip Port Trust (PPT) plans to raise its cargo handling capacity from 118.50 mpta to 325 mpta by 2025 to become the country’s biggest port. The port achieved an all-time cargo record of 76.38 million tonnes during 2015-16 against the previous year’s traffic of 71.01 MT.

(Chinmaya Dehury can be contacted atchinmaya.d@ians.in)

–IANS

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