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Kolkata, May 5

THE Railways is mulling allotment of more Box-N rakes for transportation of iron ore for exports through the Paradip port on assurance from the port authorities that there will be no dearth of traffic (that is, of imported bulk items) for backloading, or loading of the same rakes for movement in the opposite direction (from the port to the hinterland).

In 2004-05, the Railways allotted 3.5 Box-N rakes a day on an average for transportation of ore for exports through the Paradip port as cargo inducement (imported coking coal) was enough for backloading of as many rakes a day.

The allotment this fiscal may rise up to six rakes a day, according to informed sources.

Coking coal imports through Paradip in the current fiscal may rise to 4.5 mt, which means, coking coal import alone will take care of backloading of 4.5 rakes a day. The port authorities, therefore, will be required to organise imported bulk traffic for backloading of the balance 1.5 rakes a day.

"That may not be a tall order on us," observe port sources.

The optimism is based on the firm indication received by the port authorities from several steel plants that have come up in Orissa.

At least two of them are believed to have indicated to import sizeable quantities of non-coking coal through the port 60,000 tonnes a month by each company, totalling more than 1.4 mt annually, equivalent of 1.4 rakes a day.

It might be noted that National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is to import through Paradip about one million tonnes of coal for its Kania plant in Orissa.

Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd, despite its increased production, will be hard put to meet the entire enlarged demand for coal of the NTPC plant.

The public sector MMTC will handle the import. The imported coal for NTPC plant is likely to be transported from the port to Kania not by Box-N wagons but by BOBR (bottom open bottom release) wagons.

The BOBR wagons bring thermal coal for the mines of the Mahanadi Coalfields to the port for coastal shipment to Ennore to meet the requirement of Tamil Nadu Electricity Board.

In 2004-05, the port handled seven rakes of BOBR wagons a day on an average.

The figure in the current year may rise to eight rakes a day, or even more, depending on the availability of coal. Only one of these rakes will be needed for backloading of imported coal for NTPC.

Normally, BOBR wagons, which operate on a closed-circuit, go back as empties after unloading coal at the port.

The imported coal for NTPC, even if it is one rake a day, will, therefore, come as an additional benefit for the Railways.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 6, 2005)
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