Santosh Patnaik

Revising strategies keeping Gangavaram in view

GPL to commission five berths in first phase

VPT firm on increasing cargo handling capacity

VISAKHAPATNAM: The Visakhapatnam Port Trust is gearing up to face the challenge posed by the operation of five berths of Gangavaram Port Limited (GPL) in April 2008.

Having remained the most preferred port, VPT is revising its strategies as and when required to remain the frontrunner. It has retained its premier port status in the country for seventh time in a row by handling 56.39 million tonnes during 2006-07.

“Notwithstanding the fact that five major ports set a new record by joining the 50 million plus cargo club during last fiscal, VPT’s performance as of December 31, 2007 gives the hope that it will retain top port status during current fiscal,” a VPT official said.

During April-December, 2007, VPT could handle a throughput of 47.83 million tonnes. Though it remained on top, Kandla finished close second with 47.73 million tonnes.

Once GPL commissions five berths as part its first phase, thermal coal and iron ore brought by SAIL and Visakhapatnam Steel Plant is likely to go to GPL due to freight advantage.

The satellite port’s first phase has seen completion of work on iron ore berth. The coal berth will be ready in March and the remaining three for dry bulk and multipurpose will be completed in April.

A GPL spokesman said the berth equipment and conveyer system would be commissioned in mid-June.

Keeping all this in view, VPT is spending little over Rs.3,000 crores with Rs.1,400 crores from internal accruals during the Eleventh Five Year Plan on infrastructure. The management is firm in increasing the cargo handling capacity from 55 million tonnes to 100 million tonnes by 2012. The Rotterdam Maritime Group of Netherlands is the consultant for its business plan.

Large gas carrier

After handling Panamax vessels, VPT recently received large gas carrier m.v. Maharshi Bharadwaj with a length overall (LOA) of 219.89 metres and draft of 10.9 metres at the LPG berth. With expansion of Visakh Refinery in progress and Hindustan Petroleum Cororation Limited’s Greenfield refinery coming up near Achyutapuram in joint venture with foreign multinationals, VPT wants to target more crude cargo.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has already decided to locate its first underground cavern for storage of crude with a capacity of one million tonnes. The crude from the cavern – a buffer stock – will be evacuated to other places when crude prices go up in international market.