In an effort to take advantage of the World Bank-aided ₹5,369-crore Jal Marg Vikash project to cater to the hinterland, the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) is planning to set up a terminal-cum-economic zone at Balagarh, approximately 40 km upstream of Ganga, in West Bengal.

“We are considering setting up an ‘extended gate’ at Balagarh on Ganga in Hooghly district on 300 acre land, close to the National Highway and rail nodes. It may act as a river terminal cum industrial zone, offering users easy movement of (container) cargo to and from Kolkata Port by barges,” said Vineet Kumar, KoPT Chairman.

He was talking to newspersons on the sidelines of the West Bengal Annual Day of CII here on Thursday. He, however, added the project is still in the planning stage.

Under Jal Marg, the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is developing an all weather fairway on Ganga from Varanasi to Haldia (dubbed as National Waterway-I) and, creating the requisite ancillaries including six terminals, economic zones, barge repairing facilities and others. The project which is under implementation aims to increase river cargo movement along the stretch from the existing 4.5 million tonne to 22 million tonne in 2022 and 45 mt by 2030.

Kolkata Port is trying to use this opportunity to increase the pace of goods movement to and from the port and expand its reach upto Uttar Pradesh. Being a riverine port, Kolkata suffers from high cost structure and higher turnaround time; when compared to sea ports such as Dhamra or Vizag on the East Coast.

Apart from the sea freight and handling cost at the port, the cost of movement of goods from the port to the user is significantly high due to gaps in rail logistics (at the port end) and dominance of road movement.

Also as the port is located inside the city, the movement of trucks is restricted.

To make the port attractive to users, KoPT is now implementing a number of projects to improve its rail loading capacity.

This will both speed up movement at reduced costs (compared to road movement) and add to the container handling capacity of the port.

The port is trying to turn its riverine status into an advantage as completion of the Jal Marg project will enable goods movement up to Varanasi cheaper than rail and road.