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Haldia basks in Beijing glory

Haldia, Oct. 7: Nobody believes that India will be a serious contender at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. But the country is sculpting its signature on China’s preparations for the games by becoming one of the main exporters of iron ore being used to construct stadiums at the Olympic venues.

The iron ore consignments are heading to China in ships from Haldia port, whose management believes the bonanza will help it financially for years to come.

The construction work has sparked an increase in demand for the ore. “China is importing large amounts of both low-grade and high-grade iron ore for the construction of galleries and other massive structures at the stadium sites. This has resulted in an increase in export,” Subroto Ghosh, general manager, operations (cargo handling), said.

Port authorities had feared a loss of nearly Rs 220-250 crore following Indian Oil Corporation’s decision to import crude oil through a pipeline via Paradip instead of the regular route through Haldia port. This would have led to a 30 per cent decrease in cargo traffic. The Olympics has thus come as a godsend for the port.

“There is an increase of 23 per cent in the export of iron ore in the present financial year. Till September this year, we have already exported 1.78 million tons of ore,” Amal Dutta, administrative manager of Haldia port, said.

Ghosh said Haldia port was closing the gap on other major Indian ports after getting orders from Asian countries, including China.

“China used to import 1.3 crore tons of iron ore each year, but the coming year may see an increase of nearly 100 per cent. Previously, they used to prefer the ports at Vizag and Paradip, but in recent times they are concentrating more on Haldia. This is mainly due to the decrease in price of about Rs 500 per ton of ore as the distance between the mines and the port is comparatively less than that of the others,” he added.

The ore mainly comes from the mines at Barbil and Noamundi in Orissa. Since the distance between Haldia and the mining areas is less than in the case of Vizag and Paradip, the transport cost is consequently less.

Dutta said Haldia was also handling cargo other than iron ore.

“We are trying to upgrade the system of loading the merchandise from the trains to the ship and are already working on advanced techniques. At present, we are using berths 3 and 4B for loading. Earlier, only berth 3 was in use,” Ghosh said.

“The increase of the volume of export has prompted us to use one more berth. In addition to that, another berth is being mechanised so that goods can directly be loaded from the trains to the ship,” he added.

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