Santosh Patnaik

VISAKHAPATNAM: With Kandla Port ahead of all other ports, Visakhapatnam Port Trust (VPT) is expected to retain second slot during the current fiscal.

As per latest indications, VPT will finish second followed by Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT). Sources have told The Hindu that due to recession and other factors, VPT is not in a position to achieve the target of 65 million tonnes set by the Ministry of Shipping. As on Thursday, it handled a throughput of 61.5 million tonnes (mt).

Fall in cargo

There is a fall in coking coal and general cargo and an extent of one million has been taken over by Greenfield private port that has come up at Gangavaram, about 30 km from the government-run main harbour. The private port, which is yet to launch its commercial operations, has already handled 1.5 mt during the fiscal.

Sources say 0.5 mt of transhipment cargo has gone to Gangavaram, which is the deepest port in the country with a capability to handle 2,00,000 DWT vessels and Paradip Port, which is doing extremely well in handling liquid cargo.

VPT, which handled 64.6 mt last year, is projected to end 2008-09 with 64 mt or a little above it. Last year, it lost the No.1 port status, which it achieved for seven years in a row, by a whisker. The situation came to such a pass that for the first time, the management of VPT has lodged a complaint to the ministry and Indian Ports Association that Kandla Port resorted to ‘fudging of figures’ to snatch away India’s No. 1 port status.

As against a target of 64.4 mt, Kandla Port is reported to have crossed 64 mt-mark on March 1 itself. It is expected to rope in seven mt by month-end as several big vessels are waiting on the road for anchorage.

To face the challenge ahead, VPT is upgrading iron ore handling facilities to accommodate 2,00,000 DWT ships at outer harbour at a cost of Rs.185 crores. Coal handling will be upgraded at general cargo berth at a cost of Rs.414 crores. VPT Chairman Ajeya Kalam set up a marketing division to explore new opportunities.