SM Port aims to privatize cargo handling by 2030

Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port (SMP), Kolkata intends to fully privatize cargo handling by 2030. Almost 10 percent of the cargo handled by the port is currently handled through a public-private partnership (PPP) model. The goal is to scale to over 80 percent by 2030.

According to PL Haranadh, Chairman of SMP Kolkata, the plan is to fully privatize cargo handling, with the port retaining only sea operations, to encourage healthy competition between operators and market-based pricing that benefits all parties.

“By 2030, 80 percent of all operations would fall under the landlord or PPP model. It is currently around 10 percent. Cargo handling will reside with the PPP operator while vessel operations will remain entirely with the port,” Haranadh told a news conference here on Tuesday.

In order to increase the port capacity, SMP Kolkata relies heavily on PPP projects. In 2022-23, the port awarded three major projects with an investment of ₹730 crore in PPP mode. Capacity is expected to increase by 6.7 million tonnes (MT).

increase in freight traffic

SMP Kolkata experienced a nearly 13 percent increase in cargo handled, with 65.66 t in FY23 versus 58.175 t in FY22. A large part came from the increase in coking coal deliveries to steel mills, at around 11 t this year versus 7.6 t last year.

Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) saw cargo throughput increase 13 percent to 48.61 tonnes, while Kolkata Dock System (KDS) saw an 11 percent increase to 17.05 tonnes in FY23. HDC’s handling of 48.61 MT in FY23 is the highest since its inception, he said.

It should be noted that SMP Kolkata had previously exceeded the ministry’s target of 61 MT collectively and individually on its twin dock systems HDC and KDS.

The rising cargo throughput is partly due to the port’s efforts to improve productivity, safety and capacity utilization in business development, he said.

In 2022-23, SMP Kolkata handled its highest ever rail freight at 34.61 tons, surpassing the previous peak of 30.19 tons in FY22. It also recorded the highest rail transport performance ever at 28.81 MT in its most recent fiscal year, up about 19 percent from FY22.

SMP Kolkata expects good traction in demand for cargo traffic to Bangladesh and Northeastern states via the Indo Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route. Cargo traffic of 4.04 t was achieved with Bangladesh and 1.87 t with Nepal in 2022-23.

According to Haranadh, SMP Kolkata has nearly 11,000 acres and is trying to “commercialize” it. The port is preparing a detailed master plan, which should be ready by June 2023. SMP Kolkata has issued an “Expression of Interest” for the development of a multi-modal logistics terminal on approximately 60 acres, 2 km from Kolkata Dock. These projects would facilitate warehousing, cold storage, truck terminals, rail and road links.

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