Officials making last-ditch efforts to at least retain the second slot

Visakhapatnam Port Trust suffered a setback during current fiscal with its position sliding down from second to third after Kandla and JNPT.

Though the result was a foregone conclusion with VPT, which manages Visakhapatnam Port, losing lot of iron ore, pellet, crude and fertilizers to other ports, the officials made last-ditch efforts to at least retain the second slot.

The target set for the port for 2012-13 by the Ministry of Shipping was 70 million tonnes and the port as on March 30 could handle 58.66 million tonnes as against 67.02 million tonnes during corresponding period last year.

VPT had the unique distinction of emerging as the country’s premier port for seventh consecutive time till 2006-07 till it was pushed to second position by Kandla taking advantage of establishment of several refineries and mega industries in Gujarat.

Sources told The Hindu that VPT lost about 2.5 to 3 million tonnes of iron ore due to fall in exports to China and nearly one million tonne of pellets on account of drop in production by Essar.

The port also suffered due to diversion of transhipment cargo – almost 2.5 million tonnes of crude to Paradip and cut in production of HPCL’s Visakh Refinery. Paradip got a major boost in attracting transhipment cargo due to construction of single buoy mooring. This enabled berthing of Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC) and transport of crude through pipeline to Haldia and other places.

The increase in prices of fertilizer led to fall in handling of one million tonne by Visakhapatnam Port this fiscal. The delay in completion of mechanisation of coal handling at the General Cargo Berth also had a tell-tale effect on traffic figures of Visakhapatnam Port.

The project was awarded to Vizag General Cargo Berth Private Ltd – a joint venture of Vedanta and Leighton Welspun at a cost of Rs.675 crore. Though it was scheduled to become fully operational by October, 2012 with a handling capacity of 10 million tonnes, it is still in trial stage due to some technical problems.

“We have been handling coking coal in the inner harbour in small vessels. Hence, we have not suffered any loss of cargo on account of delay in operation of GCB,” an official of the port said. The port at present is implementing several mechanisation and capacity addition projects.

With an investment of Rs. 13,940 crore, Visakhapatnam Port authorities are confident of making it the most-preferred port of South East Asia by achieving a cargo handling capacity of 149 million tonnes by 2019-20.

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