Kolkata Port Trust has asked container lines to stop levying congestion surcharge of $800 per container on its customers as the improved depth at Kolkata Dock System (KDS) had rendered the extra charge unnecessary, and to lower the cost to importers and exporters, and to check diversion of cargo to other ports.
Kolkata Port Trust, the only riverine port among the dozen owned by the Centre, handled 5,40,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in FY21.
One of India’s oldest ports, it has been re-christened the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port. The depth at the Kolkata Dock System has seen considerable improvement since the new fiscal year started on April 1.
“The lines can now directly bring Kolkata-bound cargo to the Kolkata Dock System, instead of having to offload at Haldia Dock Complex due to draft constraints at Kolkata,” R Gokul, Senior Assistant Traffic Manager, said in an April 16 letter to container lines and feeder operators.
With the improved summer drafts at Kolkata, it is requested that such surcharges like congestion surcharges, low-water surcharge and emergency cost recovery surcharge may be “reconsidered” by the shipping lines, to give much needed relief to the shippers and prevent diversion of cargo from Kolkata Dock, Gokul added.
“It has come to the notice that leading shipping linescharge up to $800 as congestion surcharge per container. While the port is actively engaged with transporters and shippers to reduce logistics costs and implement more ease of doing business measures, such abnormal charges pose a serious impediment to growth at Syama Prasad Mookerjee port,” he said.
Port users had voiced concern over the draft reductions at Kolkata over the last few months.
The depths at Kolkata Dock are lower during the winter season and this lean draft season extends from late November to February every year.
“But, this year, there was a rare occurrence of sudden shoaling at the Falta stretch of the shipping channel,” Chairman Vinit Kumar told stakeholders in an April 16 letter.
“This was an abrupt phenomenon and could not be predicted. As a result, draft cuts of 0.2-0.3 metres had to be made and the lean draft season extended beyond February to March,” Kumar said.
To overcome this, the port immediately deployed additional dredgers and a secondary channel giving a better draft was opened up for shipping.
“Gradually, the draft cuts have been withdrawn and I further assure the shipping community that drafts at KDS are already back to normal. We are constantly monitoring the channel and hope that there will be further improvement in the river drafts in the coming months,” Kumar said, adding that the port is looking to grow its cargo traffic and help users through infrastructure upgradation and ease of doing business measures.
In FY21, Syama Prasad Mookerjee port handled 61.337 mt of cargo, a decline of 4.14 per cent from the 63.983 mt handled in FY20.