Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port (SMP), Kolkata, is planning several measures to increase productivity and reduce the turn around time for ships calling on the port facilities at Haldia and Kolkata. If things go as planned, night navigation of vessels between the pilotage point at Sagar and the Kolkata Dock System (KDS) — a distance of nearly 130 km — will be possible soon. Ships do sail between Sagar and the Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) after dark.
“HDC gets to use both tides whereas KDS can only use one unless both come in during the day. The River Hooghly comprises of bars and bends that ships have to negotiate. The pilots on board also have to make out the distance from shore to avoid running aground. This is not always possible in the dark. What we are planning is a set of virtual buoys that pilots can see on the laptops and take corrective measures if required.
“Experts from the Port of Antwerp and IIT, Madras are carrying out a study. My estimate is that ships will be saving nearly 7-8 hours between Sagar and Kolkata. They can move with the favourable tide at any time of the day or night. Now, they have to wait for daybreak even if the tide is favourable,” Vinit Kumar, chairman, SMP, Kolkata, said on Monday while announcing the Port’s performance in 2021-22.
In 2021-22, SMP, Kolkata did register higher net and operating profits as compared to 2020-21 but suffered a bit due to drop in iron ore and coal cargo. While exporters stayed away from iron ore due to drop in price, fluctuations in the rate of coal affected shipments, Kumar said. However, there was an increase in rail traffic during the fiscal by about 2 million tonnes. SMP, Kolkata has also opened some of its railway sidings for inland traffic.
“During the year, we invested in Outer Terminal 2 in Haldia. This will facilitate the movement of edible oil. We set up a 1Mw solar power plant at Haldia and a Reefer Park as well. The Reefer Park (for refrigerated containers) will help in the export of items like shrimp. Mechanisation of berths at Haldia and Kolkata have also begun.
Our transhipment and transloading projects at the anchorages at Sandheads and Sagar have been a great success. In 2021-22, we handled 14 Cape size vessels as compared to 7 in 2020-21. At Sagar, we can carry out operations throughout the year from vessels carrying 60-65,000 tonnes. The Ship To Ship (STS) transfer of LPG has also been a huge success. Oil companies are saving nearly Rs 3 crore per consignment. Our handling of LPG rose to about 5 million tonnes in 2021-22,” the Port chairman added.
SMP, Kolkata has also started the movement of LPG to Bangladesh in a big way. Two ‘floater’ vessels have been stationed at the Sagar anchorage. These basically work as floating tanks into which ships pump in LPG. This LPG is then transferred to 3,000-5,000 tonne barges and sailed to the Mongla port in Bangladesh.
The ship repair facilities at Netaji Subhas Dock (NSD) and Kidderpore Dock (KPD) in Kolkata have also started yielding profits. While two dry docks at NSD are being operated for this purpose by Cochin Shipyard Ltd, 3 at KPD are being used by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) Ltd.
According to the chairman, GRSE has already repaired 3-4 ships at KPD while 6 large ones have been handled at NSD. SMP, Kolkata is likely to earn Rs 2-3 crore from the operations at the NSD dry docks alone.
“As we upgrade our berths, they will be made Rail Mounted Quayside Crane (RMQC) compliant for greater output. This is happening at berths 7 and 8 of KPD as well. The tendering process for the feasibility study for a tunnel under the River Hooghly to connect Kolkata to Howrah will start from May 26. This study should be over in 6-8 months. If the tunnel is feasible and gets constructed, traffic congestion in the port area of the city will no longer exist,” Kumar said.
The Port is looking forward to handling 61-62 million tonnes in 2022-23 as compared to 58.175 million tonnes handled in 2021-22.