RETURN OF COAL IMPORTERS PUTS WIND IN HALDIA SAILS
CARGO HANDLING SURGES 35% ON DELAYS AT DHAMRA, EVACUATION ISSUES AT PARADIP
This year has been exceptionally good for Haldia port. During the first five months of the fiscal, the port recorded 27 per cent growth in cargo handling against 6.4 per cent and 10 per cent in 2013-14 and 2014-15, respectively.
The port attracted 30 lakh tonnes of additional cargo in the April-August 2015 period — the same as it did in entire 2014-15.
Much of this, according to sources, is attributable to issues at the Adani Group-run Dhamra port.
The deep-draft Dhamra port, which began operations a couple of years ago, was a big draw for coal importers, from the neighbouring Haldia and Paradip ports. These importers would bring cargo to Paradip for lighterage from Panamax vessels (65,000-80,000 tonne) to daughter vessels for final unloading at low-draft Haldia.
Though Paradip is more accessible to industries in West Bengal and Jharkhand, it faced the problem of low availability of railway rakes. Dhamra, on the other hand, offered more efficient mechanised cargo handling and under Adanis, the availability of rail rakes improved as did its operational efficiency.
Though operating under the same Khurda division of East Coast Railways, traders report ready availability of rakes at Dhamra compared to wait of five-six months at Paradip.
However, importers have been facing delays at Dhamra. “My ships had to wait for two months last year before they were unloaded,” said a coal importer who is now back at Haldia.
Two other coal importers confirmed the delays. They point to the fact that the Adani Group is also the country’s largest coal importer.
Adani did not respond to queries. But cargo movement numbers for Haldia port show a 35 per cent surge this year, with coal contributing to two-thirds of the traffic.
Sources at Paradip said the evacuation of cargo from Paradip through coastal shipping could be an added reason for Haldia’s growth.
Some 3.5 lakh tonnes of iron ore and 1.5 lakh tonnes of thermal coal awaiting evacuation for months at Paradip were finally moved to Haldia this year.
After a hectic first half, Haldia expects coal imports to slow in the second half of the fiscal due to overall economic conditions. Nevertheless, it is taking several steps to woo users and improve volumes.
A GPS-based digital application was recently introduced to help users locate the availability of land in the port to store cargo.
The system, available on mobile phones, reduces the time taken to process applications from 15 days to two.
Haldia is set to ink an agreement with Jindal ITF for offshore trans-loading of coal from large vessels on high seas.
The port is also setting up berths outside the lock area. When the refurbishment of Berths 10 and 11 are completed, Haldia expects growth in containerised cargo traffic in the days ahead.