Kolkata: The Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) has proposed a Rs3,000 crore rescue plan for West Bengal’s Haldia port amid concerns it may become redundant when the proposed Subarnarekha Port in neighbouring Odisha, majority owned by Tata Steel Ltd, becomes operational.
But the Union shipping ministry, already in disagreement with the state government over the development of a new port at Tajpur, may not readily agree to infuse cash to revive Haldia, said a state cabinet minister who asked not to be named.
He pointed to “escalating" political differences between West Bengal and the Centre as the reason.
While the state wants to build the port at Tajpur near Haldia with private ownership, the Centre wants majority control in it.
Before this, Kolkata Port Trust and the state government had set up a special purpose vehicle to develop yet another port at Sagar Island, also near Haldia. Kolkata Port Trust holds 74% in the port and the state the remaining 26%.
But following the state’s proposal to build the Tajpur port with private ownership, the Centre decided not to pursue the Sagar Island project, Kolkata Port Trust chairman M.T. Krishna Babu said on Thursday.
Between the two ports, it is clear that Tajpur is the better alternative, said the minister cited above, but the state and the Centre have not been able to resolve differences over ownership.
This could mean neither may materialize within the foreseeable future, he added.
With Tata Steel acquiring a 51% stake in the proposed Subarnarekha Port in the Balasore district of Odisha, the new facility could materialize within two years.
The port has already received environmental clearance and construction is expected to start soon.
Because of its better draught of 12.5 metres, the proposed Subarnarekha port could kill Haldia within years, said Krishna Babu, voicing Kolkata Port Trust fears.
With around 2,000 jobs at stake, Kolkata Port Trust has come up with a rescue plan for Haldia which envisages creating an 11-km canal through an island to feed water into the port’s navigation channel. As Haldia’s key problem is silting, the port requires regular dredging.
Kolkata Port Trust has suggested that a canal be dug up through the Nayachar island to feed water and increase the draught of Haldia’s navigation channel from 7.6 metres to 9 metres.
The plan, according to Krishna Babu, was submitted to the Union shipping ministry towards the end of 2016, and the Centre has asked Kolkata Port Trust to conduct further studies.
If the draught of Haldia’s navigation channel can be shored up to 9 metres, the port will be able to receive ships carrying up to 25,000 tonnes of cargo, Krishna Babu said.
Kolkata Port Trust said on Thursday that its cargo handling in 2016-17 had remained flat at 50.3 million tonnes, but operating revenue jumped 11% to Rs1,761.61 crore from Rs1,586 crore a year earlier. Operating surplus was at Rs631.12 crore versus Rs560.35 crore in the previous year, an increase of 12.6%.