The Shipping Ministry has decided to extend the jurisdiction (port limit) of Paradip Port Trust (PPT) to cover Kanika Sands, an island off the Odisha coast.

A gazette notification in this regard will be made in due course. With this, the earlier notification extending the port limit of Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) to cover Kanika Sands stands null and void.

The Ministry’s decision was announced by the Shipping Secretary on Tuesday at a high-level meeting called by him and attended, among others, by the Chief Secretary of Odisha and the chairpersons of both KoPT and PPT.

The Ministry, it is learnt, was against the extension of the port limit of any private port in this regard. The representative of a yet-to-be launched private port in Odisha was also present at the meeting.

Apple of discord

Kanika Sands proved to be an apple of discord between the Shipping Ministry and KoPT on one side and the Odisha Government on the other, ever since the gazette notification about two years ago had extended the port limit of KoPT to cover Kanika Sands. The Ministry’s objective was to help KoPT undertake transloading of dry bulk cargo in the island in partnership with the trade.

The huge bulk carriers with full load, which cannot call at Haldia Dock Complex or at Kolkata Dock System due to the poor navigability of the Hooghly river, will discharge their cargo into smaller vessels at Kanika Sands. The smaller vessels, in turn, will do the second round of discharge at the Haldia or Kolkata dock systems. The Odisha Government, with the backing of at least two private ports in the state, had staunchly opposed the notification, saying the island was located off Odisha coast and therefore only the State should decide on who could work there. The Ministry replied that any decision in regard to ship movement in international waters rested with the Centre. The matter went up to the Supreme Court, which directed that the dispute be settled amicably.

Mutual benefit

Welcoming the Ministry’s decision, S.S. Mishra, Chairman of PPT, told Business Line that both KoPT and PPT would work out the modalities of the proposed operation at Kanika Sands for mutual benefit. “It is a new concept , a new model envisaging cooperation between two State-owned major ports and we must make it a success,” Mishra observed.

However, inquiries with KoPT reveal that actual operations at Kanika Sands may not start soon as there are several issues to be sorted out.

First, the cases before the Supreme Court have to be vacated. Next, a new gazette notification has to be made, repealing the earlier one.

Also, the two ports must work out the modalities of operation. Finally, the private firms have to be involved.

While operations at Kanika Sands will be undertaken during the monsoon months from April to September, during the dry season (October-March), operations will shift to Sandheads by way of ship-to ship discharge on the line of a similar operation earlier undertaken for crude, it was pointed out.