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.

Apparel - - Contents -

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.


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.

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