In spite of a 24-hour bandh called by Socialist Unity Centre of India on August 21st the operations at Kolkata port continued to be carried on as usual by the workers there. Trinamul Congress also supported the bandh. However, cargo-handling operations including loading and unloading were carried on normally at both Kolkata Dock System and Haldia Dock. The turnout at the Kolkata Dock System was a bit less than usual but the Haldia Dock was working in full swing with at least six arrivals and departures each at both the ports together.
In a bid to attract traffic, both Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) and Container Corporation of India (Concor) have announced new rates for handling and transportation of containers from and to Nepal. Not only is the rate 30% cheaper than the prevailing road transport rates but the transit time has also been bought down to within 40 hours from Kolkata Dock System to Birgunge in Nepal. The revised rates for KoPT include a consolidated charge of Rs.2138 per TEU for a loaded container and Rs.365 for an empty one. The corresponding rates for an FEU are Rs.3208 and Rs.535 respectively. The rates for Concor are dependent on volume of Cargo and type of service to be provided. The rates are Rs.16000 per TEU for a load upto 15 tones, Rs.20000 per TEU for a load between 15 to 24 tones and for a load between 24 to 30 tones it is RS.20000 plus Rs.1000 per tonne or part thereof in excess of 24 tones per TEU. For a FEU the rate will be Rs. 28000 for a maximum of 30 tones weight.
In wake of the poor response shown by private companies to its invitation for Expression of Interest bids, the Mumbai port authorities have decided to withhold any further activity on installing full-fledged cruise terminal facilities at its general cargo berth located at the mouth of entrance channel that opens up at Indira Dock. The companies, which showed some interest in the project, included – Satyagiri Shipping, Mariana Maritime, Aquarius Yatch Club and United Liner Agency of JM Baxi Group. Another reason to go slow over this project is recent growth in traffic at the existing general cargo berth.
The Director General of Shipping has pushed the implementation of revised guidelines on chartering of tankers by Indian Entities to 1st April 2004 from 1st September 2003. The revised guidelines will cover both foreign flag and Indian Flag vessels but have been restricted to crude oil and product tankers only. The authority has excluded chemical and gas tankers from its purview in the revised guidelines. The inclusion of Indian tankers has eliminated the element of discrimination and the revised timings are seen to give them sufficient time to gear up and conform to all the guidelines.
In a bid to make Indian National Shipowners Association (INSA) sign a fresh wage agreement with Forward Seamen’s Union of India (FSUI), more than 50 seamen of the Kolkata based Union protested and shouted slogans outside the INSA office on August 18. This drastic step was taken after the Mumbai High Court barred the Union from going on strike and neglected their plea. The crowd however dispersed once the INSA secretariat convinced them that steps would be taken to address their issues immediately.
Container Corporation of India (Concor) has agreed to built a state-of-art container terminal within Kolkata Dock System (KDS) at a cost of around Rs.10 crores. KoPT has already set aside 50000 sq. metre of land within KDS for the same purpose. According to Railways Minister, Nitish Kumar, the move will increase the share of rail borne cargo, especially container traffic, through KDS. Apart from this a new rail terminal to be built at Shalimar on the west bank of Hoogly river, costing Rs.500 crores is also in the pipeline.
Following the dreaded accident which claimed the lives of four workers at Vishakapatnam port on Independence Day, the Vishakapatnam Dock Labour Board and Dock Workers’ Federation has tightened the screws on port authorities to gear up the safety procedures at the port. Meanwhile the union has also sought compensation for the families of the bereaved ones. According to Mr. D. K. Sharma, Additional General Secretary of the federation, the exact cause of the accident was not clear. He however suspected that the chemicals used for fumigation in Malaysia, from where the ship was coming, had reacted to form poisonous gases and resulted in the death of the four workers.
The first phase of Rs.80000-100000 crore Sagar Mala Project announced by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for the development of maritime sector is likely to start in March 2004 with the Rs.7500 crore plan of developing the Nava Sheva and Kochi ports. The project will involve private participation and the government sees no problem in attracting funds for the project. The step is just the beginning in a series of developments to be undertaken in a bid to connect all the major and minor ports along the coastline with the country’s inland waterways. Although the nitty-gritty’s have not been formulated as yet the formation of a maritime constituency on the lines of industry chambers has been hinted at in the near future.
Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) further consolidated its presence in the tanker market by taking the final delivery of Aframax tankers at a Korean Shipyard recently. SCI now boasts of a tanker fleet of 89 with the count of Aframax tankers reaching upto 32. The company also expects to carry the market premium for new vessels and thus expects a better margin for its new $36 million Aframax vessels having 1.10 lakh DWT. The vessel will be primarily used to bring crude into India from West Asia but could also be used on other routes depending on Crude domestic demand-supply and the prevailing global market trends.
Financial assistance was sought by Kochi port from the Union Finance Ministry for implementation of the comprehensive modernization projects for the port. The total amount required for the entire project that includes internal infrastructure (site-development, internal roads, street lighting, compound wall etc.) and external infrastructure (dredging, rail and road connectivity, breakwater etc.) is estimated to be around Rs.1029 crores. The viability gap funding will be either an upfront payment of Rs.560 crores or payment in stages amounting to a total of Rs.880 cores.