Infrastructure at the Syama Prasad Mookerjee (SPM) port — formerly Kolkata port — will get a major facelift in the next two years with a slew of projects, including augmenting the port’s capacity; modernising the infrastructure and monetising assets, to be taken up. These would cost the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port Authority (SPMPA) nearly ₹1,700 crore.

Projects worth ₹700 crore have already been completed in the last two years. The port is striving hard to advance the projects’ timelines to help bring down the overall logistics cost and help the trade, said the Port Authority's chairman Vinit Kumar.

The upcoming projects include the extended gate of the port to be built at Balagarh located 80 km from Kolkata. This ₹370 crore project, which is to have four to six berths, will initially commence with two berths in the next two years. The SPMPA will soon issue tender calling for private companies to invest and operate the project within the next six months.

It is also seeking to modernise more berths at Haldia under PPP model after successful completion of hand-over berth No. 2 to the Adani group to install rapid loading systems, he said.

“Logistics cost in India is 13-14 per cent, while globally, it is in the range of seven to eight per cent. There is a stress on bringing down the cost through comprehensive planning,” he pointed out.

The improved economic sentiment and buoyant exports have augured well for the port with container traffic at both Kolkata Dock system and Haldia Dock system together handled 7.35 lakh twenty-foot equivalent units in FY22, up 7 per cent over the previous year.

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Exports have gone up and that has helped shore up container volumes. “We expect to grow by another 5-6 per cent during the current fiscal,” said Kumar.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis has not impacted container traffic at the port as only a small quantity of coking coal and vegetable oil is usually shipped from the region.

“Some of the CIS bound containers are at the port; some already loaded and some shipped to other countries, so to that extent the impact has been minimal,” he said.

The SPM port along with other major ports in the country have done well in cargo traffic during 2021-22.

Sabyasachi Majumdar, Senior Vice President and Group Head Corporate Ratings, ICRA, said FY-22 has been good in terms of cargo volumes for Indian ports. Though there has been some impact on coal, petroleum and oil products, overall the major ports have seen an increase in cargo volumes. “During the initial part of FY-21 there was some impact on cargo volumes due to Covid-19. But it started picking up and there has been an increase in cargo volumes in FY-22,” he adds.