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Shortage of rakes may hit industrial growth

B. Madhu Gopal
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Ports will feel the pinch if volume of cargo goes up, say stevedores

Investments to the tune of $ 100 million, three ports (including one coming up at Nakkapalli) and presence of industries of all types… All these, no doubt, are sure to put Visakhapatnam city and district on the fast track of development. The upcoming projects and industries require rakes for the movement of raw materials and finished goods from the ports.

These rakes are normally allotted by the Railways to the ports. “The Railways is not in a position to meet the demand for rakes and the increased cargoes will only compound the problem,” according to sources in the Port and Stevedores Association.

Barring the Container Corporation (Concor) and the Visakha Container Terminal Private Ltd. (VCTPL), which have their own rakes, all ports, including the public sector Visakhapatnam Port Trust (VPT), are dependent on the Railways for rakes.

It's learnt that the demand for rakes (both open and covered wagons) is more during May-September, the peak season .

VPT has been registering a steady growth in railway traffic during the last 10 years barring a decline in traffic during 2006-07 reportedly owing to short supply of rakes and in 2008-09 due to the global economic recession. The total volume of traffic handled (in million tonnes) by the port through the Railways was 25.1 (2001-02), 27.5 (2002-03), 30.5 (2003-04), 32.9 (2004-05), 33.4 (2005-06), 29.8 (2006-07), 35.5 (2007-08), 33.9 (2008-09), 37.5 (2009-10) and 37.9 million tonnes during 2010-11, which is the highest tonnage in the history of VPT.

During last month alone VPT has loaded 2,000 four-wheelers.

The VPT has a well established circuit and it is utilising the wagons coming inward, i.e., those bringing iron ore from the north and coal from the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board for outward movement of products to various parts of the country imported through the port.

While the Railways has the ‘Own your rake scheme', not everyone can afford to purchase their own wagons. There are also apprehensions that the rakes owned privately will not be given preference by the Railways.

Most preferred transport

“Railways is the most preferred mode of transport as it is comparatively cheap and reliable. Increasing the rake availability and development of freight corridors is essential for quick movement of cargo,” says G. Sambasiva Rao, managing director of Sravan Shipping Services Private Ltd.

“There is no shortage of rakes and at present there are not enough indents seeking supply of rakes.

There can, however, be a mismatch between demand and supply during the peak season,” Senior Divisional Operations Manager of Waltair Division of the East Coast Railway H.S. Bajwa told The Hindu.

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