The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Out of troubled waters

From being a prosperous British-India company in the 1840s to being dead and buried by 1970 to a phoenix-like rise in 2003 — the Rajabagan dockyard has been reborn, this time as Calcutta’s latest hi-tech ship-building and repairing unit.

Last Friday found the Rajabagan dockyard launching a new vessel, a 100-ft-long ‘tug’, equipped to pull two ships along on either side. The tug, P.T. Trivandrum, will shortly be inducted into the fleet, said the general manager of the Rajabagan dockyard, Commander Praful Tayal. It will be used in rivers to pull out ships from troubled waters.

The dockyard which has, of late, been receiving orders from neighbouring Bangladesh, Indian defence forces and several companies in Mumbai and in South India for ship-building and repairs, has witnessed a swing in fortunes after receiving a multi-crore revival package from the ministry of shipping.

“The revival package helped us get back on track and within a short period, we have emerged as a leader. The dockyard, which was once in oblivion, has now added yet another feather to the city’s chequered shipping history,” said Tayal.

In the past year, the Rajabagan dockyard, one of the two principal units of the Central Inland Water Transport Corporation (CIWTC), located on the banks of the Hooghly near Metiabruz, has achieved milestones like construction of the ships D.B. Vogabati and P.T. Tuticorin.

The CIWTC has been associated with ship-building operations and repairs for many years, mainly catering to cargo movement on the river, to and from Calcutta. Many of its cargo ships connect Calcutta with Patna, Allahabad and the Northeast sector, besides trade with Bangladesh.

The Rajabagan dockyard, set up in 1837, was once the pride of British India, but soon fell out of favour, and ship-building or repairing was confined to the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers in Calcutta. In 1987, Rajabagan received orders to finish six ships, but after some initial work, the projects ran aground due to paucity of funds.

The revival package — a grant of Rs 9 crore for building new ships — got things afloat again and now the dockyard hopes to receive some of the “best orders” for ship-building. “Even agencies like the Border Security Force (BSF), which has to carry out patrolling along the Indo-Bangla border, have shown an interest,” says Tayal. According to its commander, the dockyard has decided to finish repairing at least eight vessels in a year, for which it will receive an aid package of Rs 5 crore from the government.

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