Even as the shallow depth of the Hoogly river at Kolkata and elsewhere along the downstream continues to pose challenges, growing importance of inland waterways cargo movement and planned projects under the Sagarmala programme along with the outreach to deep-drafted Sagar have put the spotlight back on KoPT. Arindam Bandyopadhyay caught up with Vinit Kumar, the Chairman of KoPT, who talked about the new plans and projects as well as the impact of the coronavirus epidemic that is roiling global trade and shipping industry. Excerpts from an interview:
KoPT has adopted a three-pronged strategy to revive the port system and is looking into inland waterways, ship repairing and cruise tourism, apart from normal cargo handling. What are the key initiatives planned in these areas?
Cargo remains our primary focus but diversification is something we are seriously looking into.
We are foraying into related industries and activities like ship repairing, for which we have entered into a joint agreement with Cochin Shipyard Ltd. We have two dry docks in Netaji Subhash dock where ship repairing has already started.
We also have three dry docks in Kidderpore dock where we plan to start the activity in future. We are planning to outsource operations at these three dry docks on a long-term basis. There is adequate infrastructure at these blocks. Apart from ship repairing, we may go for shipbuilding as well, if required, through the outsourced agency.
Another area we are focusing on is unlocking the value of portland. The township policy is under preparation under which we will be earmarking the land required for port-related purposes and also the land which can be utilised for activities like cruise and riverfront tourism. There is a parcel of around 32 acres of land near Kidderpore dock, which we are developing into a social space-cumentertainment zone. It would have both social as well as commercial spaces.
How is the land development project progressing?
The work has already has started on river cruise. In the first phase, we are spending around ₹10 crore on beautification and making some basic facilities for the river cruise operators. The tender has already been awarded to an EPC contractor who would be building the project using the architectural plan provided by us. For phase two, we have started the survey and preparation of Draft Project Report for the development of 30 acres.
Development of inland waterways is another priority area for KoPT. How that is shaping up?
Inland waterways is big opportunity for us. Kolkata port is located at the vertex of the triangle of the proposed route. In other words, if you consider National Waterways 1 and National Waterways 2 and make a triangle from Brahmaputra to Kolkata and from Baranasi to Kolkata, then we are at the top of it.
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