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Kandla Port poised to reach three-figure mark in cargo handling

Livemint:  March 31, 2016

Bengaluru: On Thursday, the last day of this fiscal year, state-owned Kandla Port Trust is set to handle about 7 lakh tonnes of cargo and join Mundra port in loading 100 million tonnes (mt) or more of cargo in a year.

Kandla port has already handled an all-time high of 99.3 mt of cargo at the time of going to press on Wednesday. The previous highest for the port was 93 mt in 2014-15.

The shipping ministry had set a target of 105 mt for the port for 2015-16. The port has a capacity to load 123.21 mt of cargo a year.

Of the 12 state-owned ports, Kandla is among the six that makes a profit. The port earned Rs.885.11 crore in 2014-15 and posted a net profit of Rs.47.45 crore.

Will Kandla touch the three-figure mark which none of the 12 state-owned ports has done so far?

For Kandla’s traffic manager M.S. Balani, it’s a time of reckoning. “We are in a touch-and-go situation,” he said. “Ships are planned for berthing and cargo is there. I’m only concerned if something goes wrong.”

Balani was referring to a ship with 90,000 tonnes of coal which was supposed to berth at Kandla on 28 March. The pilot of the tug boat that assist ships in berthing had boarded the coal carrier but the ship could not be berthed due to its anchor malfunctioning. It berthed the next day.

Kandla’s shift starts from 8am and ends at 8am the next day. “If we hit 100 mt, it should come in the last hour of the shift that ends at 8 am on 1 April. It would still be counted in the total volumes for 2015-16,” Balani said.

Mundra port, located just 60km away, touched the 100 mt mark in 2013-14. While Mundra started commercial operations in 2001, Kandla did so in 1957.

Kandla and Mundra are located along the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat.

For six consecutive years, Kandla has been India’s biggest state-owned port in terms of volumes handled. The port would have crossed the 100 mt milestone at least a couple of years ago if it had a functioning container terminal.

For the past three years, Kandla has not handled containers after scrapping a contract in 2012 awarded to a private firm for failure to achieve the contractually mandated minimum volumes.

Kandla is handling liquid cargo, particularly crude oil which accounts for more than half of its total cargo, and dry bulk cargo such as coal, fertilisers and foodgrains.

Being a Union government port, Kandla operates under a regulated regime where its rates are set by the Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP).

Port experts attribute Kandla’s success partly to its strategic location.

Kandla has a depth of 12.5 metres and is well connected by rail and road. Its biggest advantage is having the lowest cargo-handling rates among ports operating in India.

“Our handling rates are low because we are an old port with old investments and less labour,” a Kandla port official said.

The port has 24 berths. “Kandla is able to attract cargo because of lower cost and better performance,” said Bhagwan K. Mansukhani, owner of Kandla-based stevedore and shore handling agent Rishi Shipping Pvt. Ltd.

The port has improved its efficiency and productivity parameters by several notches over the past three years. On an average, ships arriving at Kandla take two-and-a-half days to unload cargo. The average turnaround time for ships was 4.3 days in 2012-13. The average output per ship berth day has also increased from 15,091 tonnes in 2012-13 to 16,457 tonnes in 2014-15.

Disclaimer: This information has been collected through secondary research and IBEF is not responsible for any errors in the same.