The public sector FACT is all set to resume using inland waterways for the movement of liquid ammonia for its production requirements.

The Kochi-based Backwater Navigation Company (BNC) has bagged the contract to transport the gas from FACT’s petrochemical division in Udyogamandal to the Ambalamugal division as well as moving imported liquid ammonia from its storage tank facilities at Kochi Port.

Of late the fertiliser company has only used roadways to transport the cargo. However, recent restrictions imposed by the court on the day time movement of liquid ammonia has forced the company to look for other options such as the inland waterways transport (IWT) mode.

FACT had signed on a Mumbai-based company for the inland waterways transport of liquid ammonia from Kochi Port till 2004. But this was stopped following some legal issues, corruption scandals and subsequent CBI enquiries.

FACT CMD Jaiveer Srivastava told Business Line that the company was moving 330 tonnes of liquid ammonia each day by road, which had to be increased to 450 tonnes as part of various expansion plans. Liquid ammonia was a vital raw material for fertiliser production and the current restrictions on road transport had forced the company to opt for waterways transport once again, he said.

The contract has been given to the Kochi-based company on a turnkey basis and they would utilise the six old bullet containers used earlier by FACT to transport liquid ammonia by rail from Kochi Port, he said.

When contacted, A.M. James of BNC said the cargo would be transported at Rs 274 per tonne after getting the necessary certification from Bureau Veritas to use containers on barges. The barge has undergone several renovations in line with the standards laid down by the International Association of Classification of Ships (IACS) to carry gas bullets. Each bullet has the capacity to carry 32 tonnes of ammonia gas and the company would operate a round-the-clock service.

He said they would use the ‘barge and detachable bullet concept’ for the first time in the country. This mode of transport could also be introduced in other areas for transporting LPG, LNG and other hazardous cargoes through waterways in Kerala.

This new method assumes significance at a time when the State Government is going all out to shift a substantial portion of cargo from roadways to waterways to reduce congestion on highways, he said.

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