Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Friday, Jan 20, 2006
Restriction on loading iron ore wagons hits Haldia, Paradip ports
Kolkata , Jan. 19
THE restriction imposed by the South Eastern Railway (SER) on the loading of iron ore wagons for exports has hit both Haldia and Paradip ports hard.
The restriction is believed to have been clamped at the behest of the Railway Board, which, it is understood, wants priority accorded to meeting the demand for ore from domestic sponge iron producing units.
As a result, only four rakes, two each for Haldia and Paradip, are now being loaded daily by SER. In normal situation, five rakes are loaded for Haldia and almost four for Paradip every day.
According to SER sources, the restriction on ore exports has been imposed temporarily in order to rush the mineral to the steel plants where stocks have dropped to a low level following non-availability of ore from the Orissa mines as a sequel to the Kalinga Nagar incident. But sources confirm that the domestic sponge iron producers are mounting pressure on the Railways for allotment of more wagons at the expense of exports.
The East Coast Railway (ECR) has not imposed any restriction but its ore loading too has been hit by the blockade in the mines area following police firing in Kalinga Nagar early this month. ECR loads three rakes of ore a day two for Paradip and one for Visakhapatnam port.
The authorities of both Haldia and Paradip ports are upset at the arrival of fewer ore rakes than before.
Paradip port has set an iron ore traffic target of 11 mt for the current fiscal. If the present situation persists, the port might find it difficult to achieve the target.
The shortfall in throughput in the current quarter, considered the most productive period of the year, therefore is a matter of concern.
The arrival of fewer rakes has thrown up yet another problem at Paradip. Not enough rakes are available for back-loading. The rakes that arrive at the port with iron ore are used for back-loading, i.e. for evacuation of imported material out of the port.
At least five rakes are needed every day for back-loading to evacuate imported coal, both coking and non-coking types, and other materials.
The non-availability of adequate rakes for back-loading will hit evacuation, causing accumulation of stocks within the port premises.
For Haldia, the back-loading, may not be a major problem because SER is placing empties for evacuation of imported materials out of the port. But the drop in ore throughput is causing concern.
Moreover, unlike Paradip, Haldia's thermal coal throughput for coastal shipment has been hit as Tamil Nadu is now accepting only one rake of coal a day through the port against the linkage of two rakes a day for the current quarter. In the last quarter, the linkage was for three rakes a day.
Meanwhile, the Paradip Port Trust is mulling if some exporters could be persuaded to bring iron from Bailadila mines in Andhra Pradesh, more so because the ECR, which is active on the route, might provide the required number of rakes.
This would, however, involve long haul entailing higher railway freight.
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