With oil firm Indian Oil Corporation shifting the handling of crude from the heavily-silted Haldia to Paradip, cargo handling by the beleaguered Haldia port and the Kolkata Port Trust together will drop by 9 million tonne in the current fiscal compared to last year.

“The Haldia Port and the Kolkata Port Trust together are expected to handle 45 million tonne of cargo in the current fiscal compared to 54 million tonne in 2008-09,” Chairman of Kolkata Port Trust Anindo Mazumdar told PTI.

He said that cargo handling would drop mainly because of the direct crude pipeline installed by State—owned IOC from Paradip port to Haldia. Earlier, Haldia port used to handle the IOC crude oil cargo.

Mr. Majumdar said in line with the recommendations of the tendering committee a new tender would be floated next month for opening of a new route, Eden Channel, to bypass the heavily silted navigation channels of Haldia port — Auckland and Jellingham.

He said that depth of Auckland and Jellingham channels, which should ideally be 5 metre and 4.5 metre respectively, have reduced to 4 metre and 3.8 metre each due to siltation.

On tendering, Mr. Mazumdar said “the process is on. The new tender would be issued next month. A company that bid in the earlier tender had quoted prices 35 per cent above the KoPT estimate for the work.”

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Shipping Mukul Roy expressed concern over the diminishing navigability of Haldia port and said urgent steps were being taken by his ministry to help improve the situation.

“It is expected that work for the opening of the new route — Eden Channel — can commence between October this year and March 2011 considering that there is a fair weather window extending up to March during which the impediment removal can be undertaken,” Mr. Roy told PTI.

He said that initial navigational testing of the Eden Channel had been completed and a report submitted.

He added that the rapid fall in draught at Haldia channel was due to release of less than 40,000 cusecs of water during a 15 days period each month earmarked for India under the Indo—Bangladesh Treaty and soil erosion in the upper reaches of the river Ganges.

“Release of 40,000 cusecs of water for 15 days each month is very essential to wash away silt from the navigational channels to maintain the draught at a reasonable level,” Mr. Roy said.

Pointing out that five dredgers were in operation at Haldia port to increase the depth of the channel, Mr. Roy said “apart from maintenance dredging, capital dredging is also required for improvement of depth in the Haldia channel.”

“For this Kolkata Port Trust has undertaken a comprehensive scheme called River Regulatory Measures (RRM) which comprises river training work and capital dredging at Balari (at Haldia).”

Capital dredging work would begin by December, he said, “The work is expected to be completed by August 2011.”

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