Monday, 1 June, 2009

Mumbai port repositioned as Project hub

In a bid to overcome the stiff competition, Mumbai port (MbPT) is being repositioned as India’s project cargo hub port taking advantage of the many distinguishing features and advantages native to the region. Its enclosed dock system, its sheltered harbour water with deep draft make it an ideal port for handling heavy lift and project cargo.

Though it has become strictly a break bulk port, it has been losing much of the cargo as break bulk, it is found to be easily containerised to ensure shorter ship stay in port, lesser cargo handling and has made it easier to ensure cargo security.

However, break bulk cargo such as over dimensional type or heavy lift project cargo calls for specialisation in handling. ‘Out of gauge’ cargo of 100 tons to 750 tons and more can be handled by a ship’s own gear vessels provided they have jumbo-sized cranes or two cranes of 450 ton capacity each working in tandem to load and unload such heavy cargo of up 900 tons.

Featuring the assets of the port for handling heavy lift cargo, Mr. V.S. Kulkarni, Dy Docks Manager of Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) emphasized, “Our existing dock system provides ideal berthing for vessels at corner berths thus permitting suitable double banking facilities alongside a vessel. The port has been able to regularly handle ‘out of gauge’ cargo and heavy project consignments of more than 700 tons. Our docks can even accommodate extra-ordinarily long vessels with overall length exceeding 900 feet. Good connectivity permitting quick evacuation of cargo via the sea through barges and by land through the rail network or by road gives Mumbai Port a distinctive advantage.”

Project cargo manufactured at minor and intermediate ports located in Gujarat are moved to MbPT by barges for onward shipment by the mother vessels. Construction machinery, road rollers, machinery of turnkey projects, boilers, transformers, dredgers, over dimensional power equipment, etc are regularly transported through the MbPT either as exports or as imports. OEMs and heavy engineering industrial units located in the hinterland find Mumbai port to be the preferred port for shipment of goods such as windmill parts, transformers, etc.

“Our regular customers include Larsen & Toubro, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd., National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd., Crompton Greaves Ltd, Suzlon Energy Ltd., Godrej & Boyce, etc.,” says Mr Kulkarni. “Heavy cargo such as transformers and reactors are brought in by barges from Hazira, Kandla or Mangalore and loaded directly onto the mother vessels. Godrej get in their cargo from their Vikhroli factory via Mankhurd from where they are transported by barges through the P & V channel to the Harbour Wall berths in the Indira Docks (18 to 21). Here the barges are double banked with the mother vessels whose cranes lift them off from the barges and load them onto the vessel.

“Heavy cargoes are also brought in by rail or road and we offer various facilities including 7 free days on export cargo and 6 on import, if the goods have to be warehoused in the dock area. Offering ro-ro facilities, heavy cargo can either be rolled on or rolled off by trailers. Besides, the advantage of MbPT is that it is an enclosed dock and the sheltered conditions allow ships to be safely berthed. The loading and unloading operation requires a certain amount of precision when the cargo is over-dimensional. This is made possible if the ship is stationary and berthed in calm waters. Such enclosed dock conditions exist only in Mumbai port. If the size of the dock gates restricts the passage of over-sized cargo then we even have the gates demolished along with part of the wall to permit its passage.”

A case in point of MbPT being a preferred port is that JNPT has had to have their imported cranes unloaded at Mumbai port a few years’ back and then moved over to JNPT for erection at their port. ABG Shipyard, the largest private sector shipbuilding yard in India, also have their big import packages weighing over 250 tons each, unloaded onto barges and taken to the shipyard in Magdalla, Gujarat from Mumbai.

“Because of the sheltered condition of the Mumbai Port, users prefer MbPT,” points out a port official. “We have better connectivity not only to the Western countries but also globally. With several Indian companies participating in global tendering for infrastructure projects in Africa, the USA and Europe, there is an increasing tendency to move heavy cargo or ‘super capital goods’ through MbPT. So also when it comes to bringing in heavy equipment for projects, Mumbai port is found advantageous as it offers excellent road, rail and coastal connectivity permitting easy transport of equipment to the erection sites. Pune based Suzlon Energy Ltd. is a regular shipper for their windmill equipment involving giant size blades and electrical equipment through our port,” he said.

Heavy Lift specialist director, Mr. Hemant Bhatia informs that though the port is well geared with their own shore-based cranes with the magnitude of heavy cargo passing through the MbPT, three private operators are offering their floating cranes of between 60 ton to 250 ton capacity. Nord Scan lines also have their heavy lift vessel operating on the Indian coast ready to provide service to interested customers.

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