The loading and unloading operations in ships set to slip into annals of history with the advent of mechanisation

Like telegrams, stevedoring – the loading and unloading operations in ships – which began at Visakhapatnam Port way back in 1933 will soon slip into annals of history.

The handling of first vessel m.v. Jaladurga 80 years ago by K. Ramabrahmam & Sons Pvt. Ltd marked the beginning of stevedoring at the port. Though the firm is still active, many others have closed shop due to variety of reasons.

With the port turning into a beehive of construction activity as part of mechanisation, it is expected that within two years or so, the stevedores will virtually have no role for loading and unloading activity.

The port has unveiled an ambitious plan to achieve a cargo handling capacity of 130 million tonne by 2016-17 and 149 million tonne by 2019-20 with an investment of Rs.13,940 crore.

Though the stevedores are already facing the pinch of mechanisation, they are mentally prepared for loss of business. All of them welcome the initiative saying to face the onslaught from private berths in the neighbourhood like Gangavaram in the city and Dhamra in Odisha, and a resurgent Paradip Port, Visakhapatnam Port has to expedite mechanisation drive.

Lower operational cost

Once the process is completed, the trade will be benefited due to a lower operational cost and full-stop to pre-berthing delays. “Change is inevitable and we have to catch up with the change,” said G. Pattabhi Ramayya of one of the oldest stevedores AB Bhanoji Rao Garuda Pattabhi Ramayya & Co. Mr. Pattabhi Ramayya told The Hindu that with the end of stevedoring, the existing players would work as Customs House Agents.

“Clients are the major beneficiary of competition and modernisation,” pointed out J.K. Nayak, general manager of Orissa Stevedores Ltd. Because of the competition, the cargo handling charges would be competitive, said G. Sambasiva Rao, managing director of Sravan Shipping.

The port lost its second rank during 2012-13 to Jawaharlal Nehru Port by handling 59.13 million tonne due to decommissioning of several berths, iron ore export policy and fall in crude import. Kandla retained its top slot.

Visakhapatnam Port had remained the country’s premier port for seventh consecutive term till 2006-07.

Now with works in full swing to have world-class facilities for 24x7 mechanised cargo handling, the port authorities are confident of making it a gateway to South East Asia. “We are confident of regaining our old glory and emerging as the premier port,” Port Traffic Manager S. Gopalakrishna said.

At present, the port has got Cabinet’s nod to award extension of container cargo terminal to Visakha Container Terminal Pvt. Ltd under Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer (DBFOT).

Essar has bagged the project for mechanisation and capacity addition at Ore Handling Complex.

Vedanta Resources recently completed the first phase of Rs. 444-crore General Cargo Berth mechanisation to handle coal.

The project, once commissioned fully will enable handling of 7.18 million tonne additional cargo. It is aimed at putting an end to the problem of coal dust in the air which was badly affecting the life of residents of Old Town.