It handles 28.9 million tonnes compared to 30.3 million last year

The ambitious plans to make it the most preferred port of South Asia notwithstanding, the cargo handed by Visakhapatnam Port is hit hard due to economy slowdown, dislocation due to mechanisation work and a variety of other reasons.

Fall in iron ore imports by China, diversion of transhipment cargo to Paradip after it commissioned single buoy mooring and decommissioning of some of its berths to facilitate modernisation and capacity addition have made the target set by the Ministry of Shipping for this year – 70 million tonnes – a distant dream for Visakhapatnam Port.

Distant dream

The first half performance is not satisfactory as the port could handle 28.9 million tonnes compared to 30.3 million last year. During 2011-12, the port handled 67.4 million tonne and slipped to third position after Kandla and JNPT. It could handle 59.13 million tonne during 2012-13 – a shortfall by 8.2 million tonne.

Petroleum products

Visakhapatnam Port Trust officials admit in private that achieving a figure close to last year’s would be difficult due to slump – a factor which has hit the performance of all the major and non-major ports in the country.

However, some ports have shown signs of improvement. For instance, Kakinada could handle nearly a million tonnes more during first half than last year’s. Gangavaram Port is also expecting a growth this year.

Handling of petroleum products at Visakhapatnam Port experienced fall from 7.83 to 6.96 million tonne, iron ore 6.45 to 6.27 million tonne, thermo coal from 1.51 to 1.35 million tonne, fertilizer from 1.51 to 1.01 million tonne and others from 7.14 to 6.84 million tonne.

As part of the port’s drive to attract other cargoes, there is of course some improvement in handling raw fertilizer and container cargo.Fallout of the super-cyclonic Phailin which forced the ships to be berthed at the anchorage for a couple of days, torrential rains and blackout for three days as part of Samaikyandhra agitation had also contributed to drop in throughput to some extent.

Corporate plan

Visakhapatnam Port, which celebrated its 80 anniversary on October 8, has adopted a corporate plan to enhance its cargo handling capacity to 110 million tonne by 2015-16 with an investment of Rs.4,500 crore.

Rs.500 crore will be spent on dredging so as to handle bigger vessels and ensure better navigation.

During the next year, the port expects to handle more cargo with the complete commissioning of General Cargo Berth for coal handling at a cost of $150 million by Sterlite India Ltd and Leighton Welspun Private Ltd. The work on mechanisation of Ore Handling Complex by Essar Ports Ltd at a cost of Rs.845 crore and extension of container terminal with an outlay of Rs.633 crore and commissioning of some of the mechanised berths are expected to attract more cargo during 2014-15.

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