The Visakhapatnam port, for years the No. 1 among the major ports in the country, has slipped in the past two-three years to second position, behind Kandla . Going by present trends, it may slide further , , as the nearby Gangavaram port in the private sector is eating into its cargo-handling business on a large scale.

The Vizag port handled 68.04 million tonnes of cargo in 2010-11 against the target of 70 million tonnes, and finished behind Kandla (81.88 million tonnes). The shortfall of 1.96 million tonnes against the target is attributed by port authorities to factors such as shutdown of one refinery unit of the HPCL for nearly 40 days, decline in the intake of thermal coal by TNEB, incessant rainfall, and decommissioning of four berths in the inner harbour.

But the main factor is diversion of traffic to Gangavaram. It is estimated that nearly 13-14 million tonnes of cargo, such as coking coal, thermal coal and others, may have been diverted to the new private port.

It is also evident that Gangavaram, with its deep draft and located in the backyard of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, is basically snatching cargo from the Vizag port and not attracting any new cargo. The established public sector port, on the other hand, is under pressure to attract new cargo.

Upgrading infrastructure

Rather belatedly, the Vizag port authorities have taken up projects to upgrade the general cargo berth in the outer harbour to accommodate bigger vessels (2 lakh dwt ), deepening of the inner harbour entrance channel and turning circle, and strengthening of five berths in the inner harbour to cater to 12.5-meter (draft) vessels. Steps are also on to procure two 50 tonne tugs.

Development of a truck parking terminal, a multimodal logistics hub, and mechanical handling facilities in the inner harbour for alumina, dry bulk cargoes and fertilisers are being taken up by the port. It is estimated that all these projects will cost Rs 3,000-3,500 crore.

After completion of the projects, which may take at least two or three years, the Vizag port may be in a better position to face competition.

(This article was published on April 15, 2011)
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