Haldia’s loss may be Paradip’s gain. Experts in shipping circles feel, that the recent crisis may divert many ships to Paradip Port to avoid possible trouble over labour unrest.
On Monday, while four of Haldia dock’s 17 berths lay empty, only one berth at the Paradip port in Odisha lay unused while 13 others were operating at full swing. The situation was the same on Sunday. While 26 more ships are expected at Paradip, Haldia’s quota has sunk to just 12. If it is any indication of what Haldia is going to suffer, the worse is yet to come.
“We have only one jetty empty. Twenty-six more vessels are expected to arrive soon. We are expecting to benefit from the Haldia dock crisis,” a senior official at Paradip port told HT. Paradip is recording a higher flow of ships despite Haldia having a better railway and roadways connectivity with the industrial hinterland.
According to a senior official of the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT), the ousting of Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT) run by Mumbai-based firm ABG and French firm LDA, and even stoppage of work at its berths, is most likely to divert ships to other ports such as Dhamra and Paradip, as they would offer services at much lower costs should HBT stop operations.
“Importers and exporters of every ship that is allocated HBT’s berths earn a ‘dispatch money’ of $ 2.5 per tonne, while they have to pay about 80-90 cents per tonne as ‘demurrage charge’ when the ship is allocated the bare berths,” the official said.
This difference is due to high handling capacity at HBT’s mechanised berths, which have three times more handling capacity than the bare berths, which are non-mechanised and shore operations also done separately. Ships calling on Haldia carry 25,000 tonnes on average.
“This system is user friendly and that is why importers and exporters prefer the berths operated by HBT,” the senior officials said, adding, “We managed to compete with Paradip and Dhamra only because of introduction of the HBT model.”
Even Manish Jain, chairmanin-charge of KoPT, said in his letter to state home secretary, dated September 19, that priority to HBT’s berths in comparison to other berths was necessary “because of various benefits to the port and the exporters/importers.”
While the Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP) determines rates in all the ports, for Haldia, except in HDC’s berths, shore operation is left to private handlers who do not go by TAMP rates and charge importers/exporters on their own wish.
Moreover, private operators doing the on-shore handling do not pay KoPT anything, except a nominal license fee of a few thousand rupees per year.
Data accessed by HT reveals that the KoPT is earning more than Rs. 106 per tonne from berths two and eight, exactly for the work the private handlers do at other berths without paying KoPT anything.
Given that the KoPT is handling, on an average for last three years, handling 33 lakh metric tonne cargo per year, the cumulative loss for leaving the shore operations in the hands of private handlers is estimated at Rs. 34,98,00,000 per year. Legally, the KoPT is authorised to take charge of both on-board and on-shore operations.