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Calcutta port trying to survive: Centre

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LALMOHAN PATNAIK   |     |   Published 12.11.11, 12:00 AM

Cuttack, Nov. 11: The Centre has said before the Orissa High Court that transloading is vital for survival of Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) and extension of its present limits is for facilitating such operations.

Transloading is the process of transferring cargo of big ocean liners to smaller vessels so that it could be transported through narrow and shallow waterways.

“If the port traffic is unable to undertake such transloading operations, the very survival of CPT may be in doubt,” the Centre said, while denying any attempt at affecting the traffic meant for private ports of Odisha. It added that CPT was already suffering because of siltation and draught restrictions.

While closing hearing on the PIL challenging the revised limit of CPT and reserving judgment on October 20, the two judge bench of Chief Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice B.N. Mohapatra had issued directions for written submissions by parties concerned.

In the written submission on behalf of the Union government, additional solicitor general Parag P. Tripathy clarified that the lines demarcating the extended limits of CPT “are only notional lines” and such lines “cannot be likened to physical boundary walls”.

“There is no physical obstruction to any vessel transiting through CPT waters towards any other port including the Odisha ports. Such transit is normally referred to as benign transit,” Tripathy said.

The PIL had contended that the Centre, by allowing CPT to extend its limit, is set to block the entire coast of north Odisha and jeopardising the development of seven modern ports in Odisha.

The state government, in an affidavit, claimed that extension of CPT limits to distances beyond its own vicinity “infringing into” ports notified by it has led to “a very peculiar and unusual situation” in which “a ship entering the port of Dhamra, which is 200km south of Calcutta, shall be required to pay port dues and pilot fees to CPT whose services it does not require at all”.

The additional solicitor general, however, assured: “Calcutta Port Trust has confirmed in its affidavit that even today, several vessels which transit CPT waters to and from Bangladesh, are not charged for such benign transit. CPT has also confirmed to the Centre and in its affidavit that vessels transiting through to the ports of Odisha will not be charged or impeded in any way.”

Tripathy said: “The transloading operations proposed to be conducted by the CPT in the small area north of Dhamra port limits is only because that area is a sheltered zone in the Bay of Bengal and therefore transloading operations could be conducted round the year.”

Transloading is the stationing a ship made for such purpose called a transloader, which would lighten the load of large and heavy cargo vessels onto smaller and lighter barges. The smaller barges could then easily navigate up the river to the Calcutta and Haldia docks and even to the northeastern states through the inland waterways.

“The stationing of a transloader in the proposed area cannot possibly cause any inconvenience to anybody, since it is nothing but one more ship in the ocean. There is no attempt whatsoever at affecting the traffic meant for Dhamra or any other private ports of Odisha. On the other hand, it is Dhamra Port that is trying to stall CPT’s attempt at survival,” the additional solicitor general contended.

Dhamra Port Company Limited (DPCL) had, in an affidavit, accused CPT of attempting to undertake transloading operations within the extended limits by renaming the “Kanika Sands island as Western Sandheads”.

“Kanika Sands is an island of the state of Odisha within the Dhamra port limits and at least 100km southwest of Sandheads, which is part of the original port limits of Calcutta port,” DPCL had alleged.

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