Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) and Odisha’s Dhamra Port Company Limited (DPCL), which is a joint venture between Tata Steel and L&T, have initiated moves to bury the hatchet. Both the ports are working on a proposal for forming a joint venture (failing which entering into some sort of MoUs) to undertake two-port operations for large bulk carriers.

Kolkata port (including Haldia) being a river port does not have the draft required to handle large bulk carriers with sizeable parcel load but can boast of good evacuation facilities while Dhamra being sea port does not suffer from draft problem but has reasons to be worried about its present evacuation facilities. “There are lots of synergies in our operations and we’re exploring how best we can hammer out a solution for our mutual benefit”, observe sources in both the ports. “Once we agree in principle, the details can be worked out”.

The present moves follow a Supreme Court order a few months ago emphasising the need for amicable settlement of the dispute among the parties concerned. The dispute arose in the wake of the shipping ministry’s notification a couple of years ago extending the limit of Kolkata port ostensibly to help the port undertake cargo handling operation at Kanika Sands, an island off Odisha coast.

The extension, DPCL had complained to Odisha Government, would harm the interest of the port. The Odisha Government went to court against the ministry’s notification, first Odisha High Court and then Supreme Court and West Bengal Government, KoPT, DPCL, all got embroiled in it.

Following the Supreme Court order, the shipping ministry held a meeting of all the parties concerned to decide how to go about it. Accordingly, a couple of meetings were held recently in Bhubaneswar between the senior officials of both the ports, the last one being in last week. While it will be too much to expect any quick solution to the problem, both sides contend that the beginning has been good. “We’ve started on a positive note”, a senior official of the KoPT told Business Line.

However, the proposal for cargo-handling at Kanika Sands by KoPT remains an intractable issue. DPCL is opposed to it, as always. It has been joined by another private company, Subarnekha Port Limited which is to develop at the mouth of the Subarnekha river in Odisha a port which will fall within the extended port limit of KoPT.

KoPT is keen to undertake cargo-handling operation at Kanika Sands as part of its proposed transloading operation in the Bay of Bengal ,also covering cargo handling at outer river jetty number one being built at Haldia. Once the plan materialises, the port will be able to handle large bulk carriers with full load. Accordingly, bids were invited and several leading firms, including Shipping Corporation of India, TM International Logistics of Tata Group, ABG Group and others, each in partnership with one or two reputed foreign firms, responded to it.

(This article was published on November 12, 2012)
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