Tajpur Port will require huge investment to reach 12 metre draft

How will a deep-drafted port at Tajpur in West Bengal’s East Midnapore district, impact Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) — a port facility under Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port (SMP), Kolkata? The state cabinet has already cleared the issuance of a Letter of Intent (LOI) for development of a port at Tajpur to Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) Ltd.

It remains to be seen when APSEZ Ltd accepts the proposal. However, one thing is clear. A sustainable port facility at Tajpur will involve huge investment.

“It will be an expensive port and charges will have to be high in order to recover costs. An investment of nearly Rs 10,000 crore will be required, just to attain 12 metres of draft. Capital dredging will be required to create a channel apart from the building of a dyke. Even after that, maintenance dredging will be required every year. This will cost Rs 250-300 crore annually,” a senior port official said.

Draft near the shore at Tajpur is barely 4-5 metres. It increases to about 12 metres 7-8 km into the sea.

A draft of 12 metres will enable only Panamax vessels, with a parcel load of 70-80,000 tonnes, to access the port. To handle Cape Size vessels, with parcel loads of 100,000 tonnes, a draft of 15 metres will be required. For this, one would have to move further away from shore.

“HDC has a draft of about 8.5 metres. There isn’t too much difference between this and 12 metres. Nowadays, importers do not unload cargo at one port. They use two ports. Sometimes, its Paradip and Dhamra. Otherwise, it is Dhamra and Haldia. This is to avoid congestion. After all, evacuation of cargo after it’s taken off the ship is very crucial.

“Haldia has very good rail and road links and is preferred by importers. No wonder, HDC continues to handle Panamax vessels that have unloaded part of the cargo at Paradip or Dhamra. HDC also handles Cape Vessels at the Sandheads and Sagar anchorage,” the official added.

Tajpur’s success will depend on several factors. One of these is the increase in cargo.

The Centre wants a major rise in cargo handling by 2025. So long as there is sufficient cargo, every port facility can enjoy a substantial share, including the proposed Subarnarekha port in Odisha’s Balasore.

Port charges will matter though. APSEZ Ltd will be mechanising Berth 2 at HDC at a cost of over Rs 298 crore. The rate it proposes to offer shippers is extremely competitive.

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