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Rlys urges SAIL to speed up coking coal evacuation from east coast ports

Santanu Sanyal

The Railways, it is learnt, is prepared to offer even an additional 140 rakes or so during the remainder of the month.

Kolkata , Sept. 17

THE Railways has urged Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) to step up despatches of imported coking coal from the three east coast ports, now that these ports are holding sizable ground stocks of the mineral, according to sources close to the Railways.

Thus, the Visakhapatnam port is holding a stock of 90,000 tonnes, Paradip 68,000 tonnes and Haldia 60,000 tonnes. The availability of rakes will be no problem, according to the sources.

The eagerness on the part of the Railways is understandable. There will generally be a surplus capacity with the Railways in the monsoon months with normal rail movement getting affected by the rainfall and the consequent floods in various parts of the country.

In these months, the activity of the economy as a whole too will be at a low ebb, only to pick up again from October.

But there is an additional reason. In first few months of the current fiscal, the import of coking coal by SAIL was at a low ebb for various reasons, with the result the despatches of the mineral from the ports to various steel plants too were low. Between April and August this year, the total despatches were 2.7 million tonnes (mt) (3.29 mt) in the same period of the last year.

In April, 129 rakes were deployed for evacuating imported coking coal out of the three ports. The figures in subsequent months picked up, though not very significantly.

In May, the figure was 166, June 188, July 185 and August 153. The Railways, therefore, would like to make up for the loading lost in first five months.

The Railways' hope has been bolstered by the fact that the trend has been reversed in the current month. Till September 12, as many as 112 rakes were offered. There were days when Visakhapatnam and Haldia ports — each handled as many as seven rakes per day.

The Railways, it is learnt, is prepared to offer even an additional 140 rakes or so during the remainder of the month totalling more than 250 in the whole month against the programme of 247 - 107 rakes for Haldia, 43 for Paradip and 97 for Visakhapatnam.

The argument of the Railways is that since large volumes of imports are in the pipeline and there are substantial ground stocks, there should be no problem for the public sector steel company to place additional demand for wagons to step up the despatches. And the demand will be met.

As it has been pointed out, the pro-rata satisfaction so far in the month has been 120 per cent for the Visakhapatnam port, 114 per cent for Haldia and 99 per cent for Paradip.

In 2003-04, SAIL imported about 7.3 mt of coking coal through the three ports, targeted to jump to 14.5 mt in 2010-11.

If the current trend is any indication, the throughput in the current fiscal (2004-05) might be around eight mt or so against the projected 9 mt.

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