With a view to increasing cargo handling capacity in the Haldia Dock Complex, Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) has proposed to install a floating crane facility. This facility will help in lightening or topping up of cargo at deep draft locations, especially Sagar. Put simply, it will allow import and export of goods at Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) through heavy vessels that cannot normally call on the existing berths of HDC due to limited draft. The floating crane facilities will help in transferring of dry bulk cargo midstream from the mother vessel or barge to daughter vessels. The daughter vessels and the now-lightened mother vessel can then call on the berths of HDC. Conversely for export, the mother vessel will be loaded midstream through the floating crane facility.

It is estimated that the Haldia Dock Complex, by 2019-20, could potentially handle up to 90 million tonnes of cargo, subject to availability of draft and cargo handling capacity. For a frame of reference, HDC handled 31 million tpa of cargo during 2014-15. The floating crane facility, to be operated on common-user basis, is amongst the several measures proposed by KoPT to this effect. The growth in projected traffic at HDC comes in wake of rapid industrialization of the hinterland comprising steel plants (SAIL and Tata Steel), power plants of CESC, NTPC, West Bengal Power Development Corporation, iron ore mines, coke and fertilizer industries. This creates potential for trade in dry bulk cargo like coking coal, coke, limestone, raw material for fertilizers, iron ore, etc.

The developer for the floating crane facilities will be selected through competitive bidding process where the decisive parameter will be the revenue share offered by the developer to the grantor of licence, which is KoPT. The licence will be issued to two distinct operators for a period of 15 years. The total cost of the project, as estimated by KoPT, is around Rs.34 crore. The bare minimum equipment that the developer is expected to install would be a self-propelled barge with a crane mounted to handle a minimum of 35 tonnes, two grabs and one launch (for transportation of men and material.)

The sale of RfQ documents began on December 1 with the scheduled submission date being January 14, 2016.

More capacity at HDC: The proposed floating crane facilities are to be used in conjunction with matching cargo handling facilities that are being set up in the Haldia Dock Complex. Recently, Nitin Gadkari, Union minister for road transport, highways and shipping laid the foundation stone for a proposed floating riverine barge jetty to cater to dry bulk transshipment. This jetty will be used to accept cargo from mother vessels from a deep-draft unloading point at Sagar. KoPT, on September 9, 2015, had issued the letter of acceptance for this project to Bothra Shipping Services Pvt Ltd. The Rs.73-crore project is expected to add 2.5 million tpa of capacity. The developer is expected to commission the project by May 2016 and operate it under a 15-year concession agreement.

Meanwhile, the draft at Sagar, which is 150 km downstream River Hooghly from Kolkata, is being deepened from the current 9m to 13.5m. This will enable calling of even heavier vessels at Sagar, thus improving the capacity utilization of the aforementioned floating cranes and jetties. IIT-Madras is expected to assist KoPT in the draft-deepening endeavour at Sagar.

Gadkari, through remote control, also recently inaugurated three other projects of Haldia Dock Complex. These include a 1 million tpa fly ash handling jetty, a refurbished gateway to the dock system and a stacker-cum-reclaimer at one of the 14 berths at HDC.

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