Tuticorin Port Trust, a major port in Tamil Nadu, is gearing up to meet the huge anticipated increase in coal traffic. Coal currently accounts for a quarter of the east coast port's total traffic but this is projected to grow exponentially in the near future, port officials told Projectmonitor.
In 2008-09, the port handled 5.88 million tonnes of coal, mainly the thermal variety used to fire power plants, representing 26 per cent of the total traffic of 22.01 million tonnes. In the coming years, coal traffic alone is projected to rise to 45 million tonnes warranting the need for dedicated coal-handling infrastructure, officials said.
Tamil Nadu is home to several upcoming imported-coal based power projects, including ultra mega power projects, that are likely to see coal traffic rising at Tuticorin Port. Besides, Chennai Port Trust's decision to move away from "dirty cargo" in the coming years would see coal traffic diversion to Tuticorin and Ennore ports-at least as far as government-controlled major ports are concerned.
Tuticorin's biggest step in this direction is the North Cargo Berth (II) that is proposed for development with private sector participation. The port is in the process of seeking requests for qualification from developers for the Rs 319-crore project that would come up on DBFOT basis. Port officials told Projectmonitor that this cargo berth with mechanised coal-handling facilities was envisaged to handle upwards of 5 million tonnes of coal annually. Developers are likely to be finalised in the early part of 2010, by current thinking.
Indian Ports Association, having submitted the technoeconomic feasibility report in June, is now in the process of finalising the concession agreement document for the NCB-II project.
Discussing other coal-centric initiatives, port officials said that plans were afoot to construct a dedicated jetty. This Rs 50-crore project, called North Cargo Berth (I), will serve the upcoming 1,000-mw Tuticorin coal-fired power plant at Tuticorin promoted by Neyveli Lignite Corporation Ltd and Tamil Nadu Electricity Board. NLC has been nominated as the project developer. Though TPT sanctioned the project in November 2006, the project has seen suffered some delay on account of re-tendering the works contract. As of now, tendering is underway afresh and the contract selection is likely to take place next month. Currently, Tuticorin Port has two coal jetties, one of which is being upgraded.
Clean cargo berth and capital dredging: Regarding other capital investment projects at Tuticorin Port, officials said that the new clean cargo berth (No.9) constructed last year was expected to start operations over the next two months, pending channel deepening. Draft is currently being increased to 10.7m through a Rs 40-crore works contract awarded to Hyderabad-based Dharti Dredging. The new berth, which would also move containers, will augment the port's handling capacity by around 2 million tpa.
Meanwhile, the Rs 538-crore capital dredging project in the dock basin and channel to enable handling vessels requiring a 12.8m draft is awaiting clearance from the shipping ministry, port officials said. Earlier this year, the port trust approved awarding the work to a consortium of Malaysian Maritime Dredging Corporation and Chennai-based Vijay Nirman Company Pvt. Ltd. Tuticorin Port Trust will bear 65 per cent of the project cost while the rest would come as Central grant.
Tuticorin Port Trust expects to very soon sign the concession agreement for the new 0.6-million teu container terminal coming up DBFOT basis. Five entities are in the fray including Larsen & Toubro Ltd, Afcons Infrastructure Ltd and Oceanic Transport, among others. The port currently has one container terminal, of around 0.45-million teu capacity, that is being operated by a consortium of Ports Authority of Singapore (PSA) and Sical Logistics. The duo, though evincing interest in the new container terminal, would not be allowed to bid for it in keeping with shipping ministry guidelines.