Port Wings News Network:
Chennai Port’s proposal to have a world-class Coal Handling Facility before the Supreme Court hangs in balance as the next hearing is slated to begin in November.
According to sources, the proposal, submitted by the port management, is fully backed by the Government of Tamil Nadu and Indian Railways for the business opportunity as well as long-term energy security to the state.
STORY SO FAR
Chennai Port was handling about 10 Million Tonnes of coal per annum at JD(East) Berths until the High Court of Madras vide Its Order in May, 2011, imposed a ban on handling dusty cargoes including coal at Chennai Port from October 2011. The Port has suffered a loss of cargo of about 18 Million Tonnes comprising Iron Ore and Coal.
With the ban in Chennai Port, other ports in the vicinity including the private ports located in Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry have garnered the share of the port.
As the port’s revenue was dwindling away, the port management decided to move the higher court with a proposal to restart the coal movement via Chennai with modern and globally accepted non-polluting methods.
Thereafter, the Port filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in response to the Order of the High Court of Madras. While considering the plea of the Port, the Supreme Court constituted the Empowered Committee in April 2012 and directed the Committee to examine the stand of the Chennai Port as per their affidavit. The Empowered Committee then directed the Technical Sub-Committee to look into the issues raised by the ChPT in the affidavit and submit a factual report.
In the report, it was pointed out that there is no scope for retaining the operation of dusty cargo in Chennai Port. However, during the hearing of Special Leave Petition in March this year, the Supreme Court heard the Appeal and asked the port to submit a fresh proposal to handle coal within the stringent environmental conditions.
According to sources, if the Supreme Court is impressed with the proposal of the Chennai Port to handle coal in unique as well as non-polluting way, the Court may give its nod to restart coal operations in Chennai that was stopped more than four years ago.
According to sources in the port, the proposed system is envisaged in line with the best practices across globe in city ports such as Rotterdam, Hamburg and Hamburg. Besides, the port also imbibed Indian best practices from JSW Jaigarh Port and new Adani Terminal at Mormugao Port. It may be noted that Rotterdam manages 42 MT coal, close to the residential colonies and operating under more stringent environmental norms.
Speaking to Port Wings, a senior official from the port said, “Under the new proposal, coal would be handled strictly through closed conveyor system. For evacuation of coal, Railway wagons would be utilized fully and there won’t be any trucking.”
The port also proposes to have a strong monitoring and feedback system. In line with the best practices in the world and said to be the first of its kind in the country, the port proposes to have “auto-cut feature,” real-time monitoring at 12 locations with results displayed at key locations and E-nose system.
It may be noted that if the Supreme Court allows the coal handling at the Chennai Port, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has committed to appoint an Assistant Environmental Engineer for monitoring environmental parameters exclusively at the port.
According to official sources, the port, which is suffering decline in throughput and reduced asset utilization, with coal operations will be able to meet long term pension commitments.
WILL COAL COME BACK TO CHENNAI PORT?
According to industry sources, the chances of restarting coal handling at Chennai Port is bright as the port management seems to presented a new proposal based on global best practices. Now it remains to see, whether the Apex Court is impressed with the Port’s proposal and gives its nod to restart coal handling soon.
On the other hand, the port management is gearing up to meet any condition may be put forward by the Supreme Court as a rider for the proposal.