In a bid to reduce transaction time, the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) is going to make its lock gates automated. At present, lock gates are manually operated. Also, a sum of approximately Rs 100 crore is being invested for dredging in Kolkata Port’s shipping channel. Several other developmental measures are simultaneously being taken up by KoPT that enters its 150th year in October. Speaking at an event organised by the Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), today, Mr. Vinit Kumar, KoPT chairman, highlighted the initiatives that are being taken by KoPT to further improve its functioning.

He said “We are soon going to make the lock-gates of the Kolkata Port automated, which at present are manually operated. A total of Rs 4 crores is being spent for the purpose. At present, a series of process is involved in opening and closing of the lock gates which include KoPT workers measuring the depth of water and then signalling to someone else who then checks it and then it leads to the operation of the gates, manually. This is already a complex and time consuming process.

After it is automated, the transaction time will come down by 20 per cent. For instance, If it takes an hour now, the time will be reduced to approximately 15 minutes.” The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, is carrying out a detailed study for the purpose. The chairman further added, “We are also setting up a reefer park in Kolkata Port with 150 multi-level reefer plugs that will help in storage of refrigerated cargos. The reefer park will come up at Netaji Subhash Dock.” Commenting on dredging works, Mr Kumar said, “Dredging has already helped improve the draft level in Kolkata and Haldia at least by 0.5 metres.

Recently, KoPT is investing Rs 100 crore for dredging contract in Kolkata Port’s shipping channel.” He pointed out that concerning cargo storage space, 40,000 sqm of space was provided earlier and this year, 45,000 sqm space is to be added for cargo storage.” He added, “The KoPT can handle 2,000 containers at present, but soon it will be able to accommodate 15,000 containers.” In terms of cargo transportation via rail, the chairman said, “At present, we can load half a rake but work is in progress and will be completed this month. Thereafter, two full trains can be accommodated.” Talking about utilisation of KoPT land and installation of security container scanners, Mr Kumar said, “The KoPT is already leasing out land for 30 years.

We have also appointed a consultant who are carrying out surveys that include usage of drones and conducting geo- surveys. The report will be submitted to us by the end of the year.” He further said, “As for container scanners, we have already brought the scanners. One more set of scanners are to arrive both at Kolkata and at Haldia” said Mr Kumar who also pointed that roads under KoPT in Kolkata that need repair. The survey and repair work will be completed before Durga Puja.”

Mr Vishal Jhajharia, president, MCCI, pointed out that barge operators are already under financial duress as they are not getting any financial support from the banks against their barges as the banks are not accepting barges as collateral. The KoPT chairman said “We have raised the issue with the ministry and with the State Bank of India. We are soon going to operate on National Waterways 1 where barges will play an important role. Hence, we have requested that whoever wants to operate barges, they be given a loan under reasonable terms.”