Deendayal Port plans to upgrade infrastructure to support growth

Kandla: Infrastructure constraints, particularly road connectivity, threaten to halt the advance of India’s largest state port by volume handled and the country’s second largest, located at Kandla in Gujarat’s Kutch district.

Unless an alternative road link is built to support the growing traffic, along with a modernization of Kandla Airport for passenger and freight traffic, trade sources say.

In FY23, the Deendayal Port Authority, the company that operates the Port of Kandla, handled 137.56 million tonnes (mt) of cargo, an 8.23 ​​percent growth from the 127.10 mt a year earlier. About 70 percent of the cargo handled in Kandla is evacuated by road, 10 percent by rail and 20 percent by pipeline.

With an annual growth rate of 10 percent, the port aims to double its cargo to 267 tons in seven years, or by 2030.

By this year, India aims to export $1 trillion worth of products and the country’s ports are expected to play a crucial role in achieving that goal. The western region is home to India’s largest public and private ports, with Kandla and Mundra, both located in Kutch District, accounting for about 20 percent of the country’s total volume of around 1,500 tons of cargo shipped by sea.

“You can’t have two of the largest ports in the country with obvious logistical disadvantages,” said a trade source in Kandla.

Currently, the Port of Kandla is connected to the hinterland by NH-41, NH-27 and NH-8A.

Several capacity expansion projects being carried out at Kandla Port as part of Maritime India Vision 2030 would result in huge traffic growth.

“The existing road link from Gandhidham to Maliya via Bhachau, Samakhiyali and Surajbari would not be sufficient to handle the growing traffic,” said Nandeesh Shukla, vice chairman of the Deendayal Port Authority.

“To support the tremendous traffic growth, it is imperative to strengthen road infrastructure/connectivity for the seamless transport of Export-Import (EXIM) cargo from/to the catchment areas,” he said.

One of the main pillars of this plan is the construction of a new highway linking Gandhidham with Maliya to create a better connection between Kandla and the rest of the country.

The proposed alternative motorway route – which is estimated to cost Rs 5,250 billion – is some 35 km shorter than the existing Gandhidham-Maliya link, resulting in fuel savings of around Rs 1,200 cores and foreign exchange savings of around US$160 million per year. It is also in line with the government’s drive to reduce logistics costs and achieve net-zero emissions.

The alternative road route is vital to protect against possible events, acts of God or natural disasters and war-like situations with India’s neighboring country, according to trade sources.

The new link will also help act as a catalyst to attract investment near the Morbi and Navlakhi port areas for export-oriented tile manufacturing units and other bulk imports such as coal and other commodities.

On the rail side, duplication and electrification of Ahmedabad-Gandhidham Line and Palanpur-Gandhidham Line are underway. The growth of Kutch, an industrial center with Asia’s largest timber market, a special economic zone and many major industries in steel, cement, salt, minerals, oil and chemicals, also justifies a modernization of Kandla Airport to meet the growing demand for personal mobility as well as cargo transportation.

Currently, Kandla Airport runway is only suitable for ATR aircraft operations.

“The runway at Kandla Airport needs to be extended to accommodate larger aircraft,” wrote Teja Kangad, President of the Gandhidham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a letter to Jyotiraditya Scindia, Minister of Civil Aviation. “The upgrading of Kandla Airport will boost the nation’s economy,” he added.

The chamber commissioned the consulting firm Jacobs Solutions Inc. to carry out a study on the modernization of Kandla Airport.

Deendayal Port Authority Chairman SK Mehta said that accelerated infrastructure development in the Kutch region “requires better connectivity through all modes of transport for both people and freight for their sustenance”.

Mehta requested Indian Railways to set up a daily intercity train service between Gandhidham and Sabarmati/Ahmedabad and a night high-speed train between Gandhidham and Delhi.

The Gandhidham area is the largest source of freight revenue for the Western Railway, with its associated emphasis on freight connectivity.

“However, new developments will involve the relocation of large numbers of professionals to and from Gandhidham from the metro cities of Ahmedabad and Delhi. Therefore, people connectivity should be considered as important as freight connectivity,” Mehta wrote in a letter to Ashok Kumar Misra, General Manager, Western Railway.

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