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Thursday, November 22, 2001

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SAIL to import coal thru Vizag, Paradip

Santanu Sanyal

KOLKATA, Nov. 21

STEEL Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) proposes to utilise the facilities at the ports of Paradip and Visakhapatnam for handling coking coal to be imported from China.

An estimated one-lakh tonne of coking coal, most probably in two shipments, is proposed to be imported in the current financial year, it is learnt. Each shipment will be partly handled at Visakhapatnam and partly at Paradip.

SAIL sources indicate that there is no immediate plan to utilise the facilities available at Haldia dock because of storage problems. Sizeable stocks of coking coal imported by Haldia dock from Australia are lying within the premises, with hardly any space being available for storing additional quantities.

SAIL imports nearly three million tonnes of coking coal through Haldia annually. In the first six months of the current fiscal, the import was around 1.4 m.t.

The Haldia dock sources, however, point out that the present ground stock position of imported coking on SAIL account is not as alarming as it is made out to be. SAIL alone is to be blamed for the space shortage, if any, at the dock, the sources observe adding that the public sector steel giant surrendered more than 20 acres of land it had earlier acquired within the dock.

SAIL, it is felt, might be having its own considerations for choosing Paradip and Visakhapatnam ports in preference to Haldia. If the imported Chinese coal is used in Bhilai plant, then Visakhapatnam port will be the obvious choice, just as Paradip port will be the automatic choice if the coal is used at Rourkela plant. Haldia will be ideal for Durgapur plant as well as IISCO. If Haldia is skipped in favour of Paradip and Visakhapatnam, then it can be presumed that the Chinese coal will be used in the blast furnaces of Bhilai and Rourkela, not of Durgapur or Burnpur.

Paradip Port Trust sources confirm that they too have heard that the port might be used for handling Chinese coking coal, though no official confirmation of it is available as yet.

Last year, SAIL imported about one m.t. of coking coal through Paradip; only one lakh tonnes so far in the current financial year.

PPT sources are bullish about the prospects of more coking coal traffic. A few days ago, about 12,000 tonnes of Chinese coaking coal were handled by it on an experimental basis. The importer was a private firm supplying the coal to a coke oven unit in Orissa. The Orissa-based Neelachal Ispat too is planning to import coking coal through the port.

According to sources, the choice of Paradip is ideal because it also handles large quantities of iron ore for exports for China. The same ship, which brings coal from China, could be used for ore shipments to that country.

With SAIL opting for f.o.b. contracts in regard to the import of coking coal from China, it will nominate, through Transchart, the vessels for carrying the cargo and in all likelihood the Indian flag vessels will be nominated.

 
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