Uncertainty remains on whether expansion of the old port will help reduce congestion

Despite spending nearly Rs. 60 crore, there is uncertainty whether the Phase III of construction of the new fishing harbour at Mangalore Old Port, Bunder, will decongest the existing harbour.

The Rs. 57.6 crore expansion and modernisation of the port – including rest sheds, net mending sheds, auction house, radio towers, cafeteria, and dredging around the area – is struggling to meet the deadline of October 2015. Construction activities were delayed by more than a year. Moreover, with the upgraded port capable of handling 1,500 boats, the congestion around Bunder may not be effectively tackled.

“Overall, there are around 2,000 boats now, including small- and medium-sized boats that use the old port. Because of this, there is always a pile-up. Boats wait in long queues for unloading fish or to fill diesel,” said Chandra Suvarna, Director of the Trawl Boat Society here.

He believed that with boats getting bigger, the new upgraded port may not satiate the demand for space. “Boats are now 70 ft long or more. It is the smaller wooden boats who suffer in the congestion, as they get severely damaged when bumping against bigger boats,” he said.

The Phase III involves expansion by 480m on Bunder side, and 400m on Bengre side of the river. This would augment the 525m of existing port space.

Deputy Director of Fisheries Sureshkumar Ullal said around 300 boats can be accommodated in the new port. However, 950 mechanised boats had registered with the department. “There will always be congestion. If the boats stay there for long, the congestion will pile up,” he said.

Delay in construction

The designs were beset with problems from the start. Engineers at the Ports and Fisheries Engineering wing blamed it on the revision of plans. While the first change in their design involved increasing the height of wharf from 2.5m to 3m (that would help bigger boats), there was a complete overhaul by the Karnataka Engineering Research Station to make it “construction friendly”.

Even with this, Mr. Sureshkumar expressed confidence that the works would be finished on time.

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