Business at the government-owned Kandla Port is growing at a fast pace and on course to handle 100 million tonnes (mt) of cargo in 2015-16. In the first half of the current fiscal, the port loaded 50.38 mt of cargo and grew at a growth rate of 8.26%.
"We are 100% sure that we will handle 100 mt by March," a spokesman for the port, one of 12 ports controlled by the government, said. If it happens, Kandla will be the first government-owned port to reach the 100 mt cargo milestone.
The shipping ministry has set a cargo handling target of 115 mt for Kandla for 2015-16. Between April and September 2014, Kandla loaded 46.539 mt of cargo and ended 2014-15 with a total cargo volume of 92.49 mt.
India's biggest port, the Adani Group-run Mundra, located 60km from Kandla in the Gulf of Kutch, is the only Indian port to load more than 100 mt in a year in 2013-14; it handled 111 mt of cargo in 2014-15.
For the last seven years, Kandla has been India's biggest government-owned port in terms of cargo handled. The port started operations in 1957.
Kandla's volume growth during the September quarter has been led by robust thermal coal (used to fire power stations) and fertilizer shipments. The port handled 7.5 mt of thermal coal as against 4.5 mt a year ago. Finished fertilizer shipments touched 3 mt from 1.5 mt a year earlier. "The total dry bulk cargo handled by Kandla crossed 20 mt during the first half, clocking a growth of 20% from a year ago," a spokesperson for the shipping ministry said. However, unlike Mundra, Kandla does not handle any container cargo.
Kandla's growth story is despite the fact that the port has a low water depth of 12-12.5 metres, a level at which only ships with a capacity to carry 53,000-55,000 tonnes of cargo can berth. In comparison, Mundra has a depth of over 17m, enabling it to handle so-called capesize ships, the biggest vessels that can carry dry bulk commodities such as coal, iron ore, steel and grain.
Kandla has also been without a regular chairman after P.D. Vaghela demitted office on 19 December 2013. Ravi Parmar, chairman of Mumbai port, who holds additional charge of Kandla port, is tipped to become its full-time chairman.
Port experts attribute the success of Kandla port partly to its strategic location. About 70% of India's trade in commodities such as crude oil, coal, fertilizers, foodgrain and container cargo is accounted for by cargo originating from and destined for centres in north and north-western India, including the Delhi national capital region.
The location is also a gateway to Europe, the US, Africa and West Asia.
Kandla's biggest advantage is 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," the spokesperson for Kandla port said.
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