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Kolkata Officials Calling for Dredging of Haldia Port Channel

Indian officials will divert four dredges to clear channels at Haldia port, where severe siltation has restricted cargo movements.

A.P.V.N. Sharma, secretary for Shipping said that two dredges will arrive in October and two more a month later. The second two dredges will be chartered by Transchart, the Indian government’s ship chartering division.

The Haldia dock complex is on the west bank of the Hoogly River, 63 miles from the pilotage station at Sandheads on the Bay of Bengal.

The river channel had an average controlling draft of 8.5 meters (28 feet) in July for the past four years. This year, the draft in July was 7.35 meters (24 feet).

The most severely silted sections are Jellingham and Auckland bars with drafts of six and 6.2 meters (approximately 20 feet) respectively at zero tide level.

Shippers are entering the port light-loaded, which increases the traffic and has increased costs by 30 percent, as the ships are charged for their full capacity even if they are not fully loaded. Shippers have been examining the feasibility of diverting to other ports and then delivering via rail or truck.

On October 15, a report stated that large companies like Haldia Petrochemicals, Mitsubishi, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Indian Oil Corporation, various refineries of different companies, Tata Chemicals, TISCO, four plants of SAIL, different power plants situated in different parts of eastern India, industries in Durgapur, the projected Jindal Salboni steel plant and different mines in eastern India will be severely affected if the channel is not maintained.

The government entity Dredging Corporation of India is charged with maintaining the channel, and did work there earlier this year. However, the necessary depth was not achieved, and the dredges were diverted to the large project at the Sethu Samudram Canal.

An ASIC official told reporters on September 15 that the Dredging Corporation of India is supposed to deploy five dredges in the Hooghly throughout the year, and a sixth for 120 days a year.

“The measures already adopted by the authorities of Kolkata Port Trust will not yield desired results on long-term basis and we’re worried as the situation might worsen in the lean season, due from October,” said Nopany,.

“Ships are already being diverted to Paradip and other ports on the eastern coast. Tata Steel which has leased the berth number 12 at Haldia Dock Complex does not use it for export, instead the cargo is sent through the Mumbai port,” R. K. Burman, secretary of the Haldia Dock Officers’ Forum, said on October 21.

Rajeev Dube, deputy chairman of Kolkata Port Trust in charge of the Haldia Dock, called a meeting of stakeholders, mostly Haldia-based industries, in mid-October, and explained that if the minister of Shipping diverts the required dredges from Sethu Samudram to Haldia immediately, the problem will be resolved.

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