The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kulpi port back on study table

Calcutta, June 1: A feasibility study will be carried out to assess the viability of the proposed Kulpi port keeping the interests of Haldia and Calcutta ports in mind.

A meeting chaired by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and attended by Union shipping secretary D.T. Joseph, Calcutta Port Trust chairman Anup Chanda, and officials of P&O Ports (Kulpi) and Keventer Group ' partners in Bengal Port, which will implement the project ' decided on the joint study today. Officials from the commerce and industries department were also present during the meeting.

The National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai, is likely to undertake the study. Calcutta Port Trust will help with the relevant data, said commerce and industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen.

The new exercise will include a reassessment of the river regulation measures planned for maintaining the depth of the Haldia port channel.

The Kulpi port management, which apprehended that the river regulatory measures planned for Haldia would adversely impact the new port, suggested the reassessment.

'We have to have the right of way for getting to Kulpi and we want a draft of 8.5 metres. The chief minister was very pragmatic and has understood our problem. He has asked the Union shipping secretary to expedite the study,' said Jimmy Sarbh, the South Asia chairman and managing director of P&O, after the meeting.

According to officials, the Chennai institute had earlier suggested putting up structures in the Hooghly to prevent silt from going back into the Haldia channel. However, the Kulpi port management fears that this might push silt into the Kulpi channel.

P&O Ports (Kulpi) and Keventer Group each hold 44.5 per cent stake in Bengal Port, while the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation holds 11 per cent.

P&O has already appointed consultants Jacobs Babtie for a techno-economic feasibility study on the proposed port and special economic zone at Kulpi. 'We've already spent Rs 7 crore on this study and we'll spend more for bringing up this port in Bengal,' Sarbh said.

According to Sen, the investor's apprehensions were justified. 'Over the years, the Balari sand bar that lies to the north of Haldia is slowly drifting southwards. Steps have to be taken regarding this or it will soon threaten the oil jetties of Haldia. The investors in Kulpi port wanted to be assured about this,' he said. As the sand bar will have to be cut, it is likely to have repercussions on the river, which might affect the passage to Kulpi port.

'We have to find out whether cutting off the sand bar will affect Kulpi and to what extent. Its viability will depend on how much water it gets, which will determine the volume of traffic it can handle,' Sen added.

The chief minister reportedly told the Union shipping secretary that his government wants Haldia and Calcutta ports to flourish. 'In the context of the Centre's look-east policy and Bengal's industrial resurgence, Kulpi will get a fair volume of traffic despite the other two ports,' an official present at the meeting said.

The shipping secretary has been asked to finalise the terms of reference, time span and cost of the study on his return.

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