Power and steel firms are importing shiploads of coal due to a severe shortage at home, leading to heavy congestion in one of the country’s busiest ports that now has twice the number of vessels waiting than its available berths.
The over-crowding at Paradip port in Orissa could derail India’s efforts to prevent a shutdown of more than half of its power plants which are running on stocks of less than a week in the worst deficit since a massive blackout in 2012.
While power and coal minister Piyush Goyal has urged power firms to bring more coal into India, the country’s ports are finding it difficult to deal with the swelling traffic. “We’re 100 per cent housefull,” said GP Biswal, deputy conservator of Paradip port.
“We’re not able to cope with the sudden increase in traffic.” Half of the 27 stranded ships at Paradip are carrying up to 90,000 tonnes of coal each and it takes up to six days to offload a ship once it is berthed. Biswal said rains in the eastern part of the country over the past few days have hampered operations but there could be an improvement in a week.
Some of the ships are to deliver coal for top power and steel firms like Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, Steel Authority of India Ltd, GMR Energy, Tata Group and the Adani Group.
Congestion was higher-than-usual at some other ports too, said Prakash Duvvuri, research head at research firm OreTeam. Total coal traffic across all ports, including shipments within the country, rose 12 per cent in August from a year ago.
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