Severe shortage of power on account of fuel shortage has adversely affected various sections, but at least one segment is looking at the adversity as an opportunity.

Ports and related infrastructure segment is the lone gainer on account of the unprecedented shortage of fuel, coal in particular, for power generation. Ports, which saw a significant dip in the business a couple of years ago owing to fall in iron ore mining and exports, are, however, sustaining their growth momentum on account of coal imports.

Central Electricity Authority chairperson A.S. Bakshi, on his recent visit to the city, said the situation is likely to continue for the next couple of years as the coal producers could not augment their production in line with the increase in demand for power. This, in turn, translates into the fact that dependence on imported coal is set to increase in the coming days and a bulk of the commodity is coming in the form of transhipments from Indonesia and other countries.

Coupled with this are the environmental concerns that precipitated the situation resulting in a sudden drop in mining and the situation had come to a pass where import of fuel cannot be avoided. The situation would not have come at a more opportune time for the ports, considered a neglected sector hitherto, as coal constitutes the bulk of cargo coming from abroad.

Sensing the business opportunity, port developers, predominantly private players, started putting in place the necessary infrastructure to handle the imports that were necessitated to bridge the demand supply gap in power sector. Major port developers have firmed up plans to develop exclusive berths to handle coal imports.

Local port developers including Krishnapatnam Port Company and D.V.S. Raju and Warburg Pincus led consortium developing Gangavaram port have announced major investments in setting up exclusive berths for coal in their respective ports.

KPC in expansion mode

The Krishnapatnam Port Company in Nellore, where seven major coal based power projects with a cumulative generation capacity of 16,780 MW are coming up, has announced plans for expanding its infrastructure with Rs. 7,300 crore, of which it had invested Rs. 1,400 crore in the first phase. The port saw steep drop in iron ore exports reaching almost zero has sustained growth with spurt in coal imports. The port which handled 13.1 million tonne imported coal 2010-11 is now eyeing 21 MT by the end of the current fiscal.

According to Gangavaram Port managing director and CEO A.K. Balyan, it would take at least three years for construction of the terminal to be complete. The consortium, in the meantime, was looking at options that would enable import of LNG. Imported coal accounted for 70 per cent of the port’s total traffic - 10 MT out of the 14 MT – in 2010-11.

Adani Group, one of the largest private multi-port operator and promoter of Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone, has decided to expand operations by setting up a 6.5 million tonne coal import terminal at Visakhapatnam. The Group had won the bid for developing coal import terminal, marking the entry of MPSEZ on the east coast. Designed with an estimated investment of Rs. 300 crore, the company had announced plans to build and commission the new terminal within 24 months.