Kolkata port peeved at ferrying coal via inland waterway

Pratim Ranjan Bose Kolkata | Updated on January 24, 2018 Published on February 08, 2015

Wants either direct subsidy or change in biz model

It all began with a path-breaking initiative from NTPC to transport three million tonnes of imported coal a year to its generating stations at Farakka and Kahangaon through the Ganges. Now, the Centre is gearing up to make it a popular option for ferrying coal in the region.

Ideally, that should have brought cheers to the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT), as more large ships would be using its territory for trans-loading operations. But it did not.

There is simmering discontent at the port headquarters here that the initiative neglects the commercial interests of the KoPT. The current business model, sources say, forces the port to heavily subsidise such users and sacrifice a share of the cargo too.

High subsidy

With NTPC now set to transport more coal through this route, to fuel Barh power station in Bihar, KoPT is urging the Centre for either direct subsidy or a change in the business model.

As per the existing model, vessels carrying 70,000 tonnes or more coal — that cannot make it to the dockyard at Haldia, 100 km up the river channel — are now trans-loading the cargo to barges, at the river mouth, maintained by KoPT.

It is a shift from the set norms for such vessels to unload majority of the cargo at Paradip or Gangavaram — that offers deeper draft — and ferry the rest to Kolkata port attracting a wharfage of ₹45 a tonne plus other charges.

While the ports are now sacrificing their share of the potential cargo, KoPT is earning a mere ₹15 a tonne as wharfage. The charges are kept low, at the insistence of the Government, to promote use of inland waterway.

“The result is we are losing on both the cargo and profit opportunity on trans-loading,” a source said.

KoPT is aware that the rush for using inland waterwaythrows open a great opportunity for the low-draft riverine port as it offers the only sea link to vast hinterland in North, East and, North-Eastern regions.

“But to capitalise on that, we need to operate on a viable business model,” a source said. “It must not grow at our expense,” he added.

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Published on February 08, 2015
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