Shipping it Right!
Apparel exporters in Eastern India and apparel exporters of Kolkata will find it viable to avail the services of the Kolkata Port and the wide railway network connecting the port, backed by higher vessel availability. Partha Pratim Basistha reports.
A report on how increased connectivity is favourably impacting apparel exporters porters
Apparel exporters located in the Kolkata apparel cluster in Eastern India looking to ship their cargo to the Far East, can look to avail the facilities of the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) and the Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) under the jurisdiction of the Kolkata Port. This is because the both the ports have begun to take major capacity addition initiatives in concurrence with the improvement of productivity.
The importance of both the ports—which also cater to the Bangladesh apparel trade—is based on the fact that the ports provide high levels of cost-economic advantage for Eastern India's apparel trade. This is because—having increased its productivity levels in the recent past via mechanisation of its container handling facility at KoPT and setting up of private container terminal at HDC—vessels call has gone up at the ports between trans-shipment destination of Port Klang, Dubai, Singapore and Colombo. The vessels calling at the port are feeders and continued access this port's service is still an attractive proposition.
It is still feasible for the vessels to call at the ports. Resultantly, the apparel exporters' continued access the port is also based on their strategic locations—if they are close to Myanmar, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Singapore and Nepal.
A GOOD NUMBER OF NEW CONTAINER FREIGHT STATIONS HAVE COME UP NEAR THE VICINITY OF THE PORT, MAKING IT EASIER FOR APPAREL EXPORTERS TO ACCESS THE PORT WITHOUT BEING STRANDED OUTSIDE THE PORT FOR LONG—A COMMON OCCURANCE, EARLIER.
Nepal is serviced by Direct Container Train services from Kolkata Port.
The KoPT has undertaken recent expansion of its backyard to hold more container cargo. Besides, a good number of new Container Freight Stations have come up near the vicinity of the port. This maked it easier for apparel exporters to access the port without being stranded outside the port for long—a commmon accurance, earlier. The Container Corporation of India is one of the ICD operators at the port. It also handles export cargo for Nepal through the rail route from Kolkata passing through Kolkata port. The new container depot of CONCOR is rail linked to this port.
Much to the benefit of the apparel trade, HDC followed suit by setting up a private container terminal for significant capacity additions. Prime amongst these is the development of two lakh sq mts of additional storage space. 40,000 square meters of this space has already been developed. In concurrence with this, the port (which has extremely great railway connectivity) is undergoing major mechanisation of its cargo-handling activities. This is primarily being undertaken to reduce labor intervention and improve productivity.
Productivity improvement is vital for the port to attract traffic. This is also important for apparel exporters having an issue with extended lead times, especially during the festive season in Europe. The major issue of the port that has been hampering its vessel traffic commensurate with its productivity are the high levels of draft restrictions DRAFT IMPROVEMENT IMPERATIVE KoPT has got two dock complexes. These are HDC, Netaji Subhash Dock (NSD) and (KDS) Khidderpore Dock complex. HDC is located near the Bay of Bengal estuary. While, the oldest, NSD, the port’s container terminal and adjoining, KDS, the bulk and passenger terminal is further upstream. Maintenance dredging is mainly carried on the Jhellingham and Auckland
bar on the Hooghly river channel leading to HDC. This is due to major dependence of a large numbers of industries, across eastern India on the dock, leading to the handling of almost 2,000 ships by the dock every year.
The bars have come up owing to heavy siltation in the Hooghly river, taking place over the years. This is mainly due to sediment flow from almost thirty two rivers, flowing into the Hooghly, originating from various parts of West Bengal and the littoral drift of sediment due to high tidal variations in the river. The situation becomes acute during the monsoon months. The port has been taking serious initiatives to improve draft restrictions enabling more vessels to call at the port.
With more vessels calling at the port and a faster turnaround, guaranteed by deeper drafts, apparel exporters in eastern India will be able to optimally avail the railway network for shipping their cargoes. Availing the railway network will cut down on lead times as it will result towards movement of the cargo. Most vitally, it will bring down transportation costs. Apparel exporters, in many cases, at present, opt to move their cargo through road to the port to minimise lead times.
It is commendable that much to the benefit of apparel exporters, the Container Corporation of India has recently shifted its earlier rail container terminal from Cossipore in North Kolkata to a nearby CFS, owned and operated by it in the vicinity of the port. Containers now originating from the apparel clusters in and around Kolkata a can be aggregated to the CFS where they can be easily transported to the port’s container terminal for loading the same into the vessel for its further transshipment through Colombo, Singapore or Port Klang, provided again they
are backed by higher vessel availability and fixed turnaround times.
Backed by the CFS, import containers can now also be easily rail transported through to Birgunj Inland Container Depot in Nepal. Recent improvement of the rail link from Howrah to Kolkata, through the removal of encroachments and electrification has also been beneficial for apparel exporters and other trade. The link was earlier used normally for passenger and goods train movement in lesser frequencies to Kolkata Port passing through commercial locations. A couple of years back, the line was rendered unviable due to lesser frequencies of trains as cargo destined to Kolkata port as traffic was increasingly moving through road. This used to create serious congestion of the container trucks near the port, as a result increasing the dwell time of the container cargo. Now, with the improvement of the link between Howrah to Kolkata Port and further strengthening of the arterial link of Eastern Railway connecting the Howrah-Kolkata Port link container rakes movement has become easier. However, accessibility of the railway link will become commercially more viable for apparel exporters with improved vessel availability at the ports.
While necessary draft increment initiatives will increase the vessel movement at the ports, it will be essential to ensure seamless movement between Kolkata and Haldia port which is presently facing issues of draft restrictions as well. Movement between Kolkata and Haldia ports will result in a significant decline of lead times, which is more now as the trade has to access road transportation for sending their container to Haldia port for further shipment to the Far East.