Cargo shipments through Kolkata port has been hit by a restriction imposed by Kolkata Police on heavy vehicular movement, including container carrying trucks and trailers in the dock area between 8am and 10pm from 24 September to tackle congestion because of lack of parking space for goods carriers.

 “The restriction on heavy vehicular movements into and out of the port during day time has severely impacted cargo shipments through Kolkata port," said Ashok Janakiram, president of the Association of Shipping Interests in Calcutta, an industry lobby. 

Kolkata port has for long been the preferred gateway for export-import cargo for India’s north-eastern states as well as for land-locked neighbours such as Nepal and Bhutan. 

“We apprehend severe operational difficulties, including increased congestion on imposition of the traffic restriction, from 24 September," S. Balaji Arunkumar, deputy chairman of the Kolkata Port Trust, wrote in a 26 September communication to Basudeb Banerjee, chief secretary of West Bengal. Mint has reviewed a copy. 

“Trucks/trailors ready for exit from the docks at 8am will be unable to leave the dock system leading to congestion inside the system. As a result, circulation space within the docks will be affected and loading/unloading work of vessels will be held up. This will have a chain reaction in the evening from 10om when incoming vehicles will also be affected, “Arunkumar said. 

This will have a cascading effect such as longer waiting time for ships and delay in shore clearance of cargo, adding to the costs, Arunkumar wrote, urging Banerjee to advise the commissioner of Kolkata Police to lift the restriction. 

If the restriction is not removed, it would have a serious impact on port operations as terminal/vessel operations will be badly affected with imports piling up inside the port leading to congestion, said a spokesman for the Container Shipping Lines Association, a group representing container lines operating in India. 

While Kolkata Port Trust, according to Arunkumar, is working on expanding the parking space to accommodate more than 600 trucks and trailers from the existing 240 and ease congestion, the work would take about four months to get completed. 

The issue highlights the problems facing a city-based port whose dock roads are used by the general public. 

Kolkata Port Trust handled 20 million tonnes (mt) of cargo between April and August this year, down from 21.6 mt handed during the same period last year. The port handled 317,000 shipping containers or twenty foot equivalent units (TEUs) during the first five months of the fiscal year, up from 268,000 shipping containers last year.

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