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Monday, Nov 04, 2002

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Depth gives Kakinada port the crude advantage

Amit Mitra

THE Kakinada deep-water port is emerging as a major crude transshipment centre on the east coast, with Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) using the facility to transship about 20 lakh tonnes of crude during the last four months.

What has attracted IOC to Kakinada port is the ability to bring crude in Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC), which cannot be berthed in any port on the east coast. The Indian oil major has thus been able to make substantial savings in the ocean freight and charter time. IOC has been bringing in VLCCs and transferring the crude onto smaller vessels for coastal movement to Chennai and Haldia.

The Kakinada port, which has been handling on an average two crude transshipment cargoes every month since June, is now negotiating with Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) to have its crude transshipped at Kakinada. "Perhaps, HPCL and IOC could have a tie-up to jointly import crude in VLCCs and transship it at Kakinada for on-ward movement to their refineries," a senior official of Kakinada port said.

The diversion of crude vessels to Kakinada port has understandably put the Vizag port in a tizzy. According to sources, the Vizag port, which has lost more than 20 lakh tonnes of crude traffic during the last few months, is considering the option of whittling down its handling charges to attract IOC back to Vizag. In financial terms, the sources said, the port has lost revenues of about Rs 60 lakh due to the diversion of crude vessels to Kakinada in the last few months.

The Kakinada port expects to develop as a major crude transhipment centre in the coming years, as nearly 15 million tonnes of crude is imported through ports on the east coast every year to meet the requirements of the refineries located along the coast. Having identified a suitable transhipment area about 18 km off the coast, the port is now preparing the ground to receive even Ultra Large Crude Carriers (ULCC), which can bring in larger parcels of even five lakh tonnes.

The port has a string of natural advantages for undertaking such operations. Primarily, the seaward area off the port provides an excellent area for transhipment, between the 30 metre to 50 metre depth contour and about eight nautical miles from the port. Further, the sea conditions permit the port to carry out this operation throughout the year.

With Kakinada located almost midway between Chennai and Paradip, a continuous stream of daughter vessels could feed the refineries in Haldia, Vizag and Chennai, the approximate sailing time from Kakinada to these ports being 38 hours, six hours and 23 hours respectively.

The port has also been employing the double banking technique. Double banking of daughter tanker to mother vessel is also done while the latter is riding at one anchor.

First, the daughter tanker, after having pneumatic fenders rigged on her shipside, approaches the mother tanker and when both the vessels are sufficiently close, head lines and stern lines are passed between the vessels.

Apart from crude transhipment cargo, the port is also focussing on container cargo for export and import of products like tobacco, yarn and paper. The port has worked out a strategy to attract about 70,000 TEUs of box traffic within three years time.

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