Green signal for Rs 2,029-crore city harbour expansion plan

Enabling entry of larger ships is expected to bring down operation costs by 40 pc.

Mumbai’s two ports, the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), will soon have the capacity to handle larger ships thanks to a project to expand Mumbai harbour, auguring well for the shipping trade routed through the city.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved fresh estimates of the project to deepen and widen the Mumbai harbour channel, which is used commonly by MbPT and JNPT. The cost of the project, Rs 2,029 crore, will be shared by MbPT (which will contribute just 1/8th of the cost) and JNPT (which will bear 7/8th of the cost).

The shipping ministry had last widened the channel in 2012.

JNPT chairperson Anil Diggikar said the tender would be awarded soon and the work was to be completed within two years. The dredged-up silt and rock – expected to be 35.03 million cubic metres – would be deposited in the deep seas, he added.

NN Kumar, JNPT deputy chairperson, said that at present, ships with a draft of 14 metres can enter the Mumbai channel. Once the expansion is complete, ships with drafts of 15 metres will be able to gain entry. “Ships with 14-metre drafts can carry 6,000 to 7,000 tonne units (TU), while ships with 15-metre drafts can carry 12,000 TUs,” he said.

Kumar said enabling the entry of larger ships would reduce port traffic and save 40 per cent of operation costs. “It will benefit the state because JNPT is the only container port in Mumbai,” he said.

The project envisages the existing channel to be widened from 370 metres currently to 450 metres.

Meanwhile, construction on a fourth terminal at JNPT is also underway. The present total capacity of JNPT for container-handling is 5 million TEUs (Twenty Feet Equivalent Unit), but once the fourth terminal becomes operational, this capacity will be enhanced to 9.8 million TEUs.

JNPT will then attain the capacity to handle additional traffic of 1.67 million TEUs, bringing a slew of economic and operational benefits, such as decreased vessel waiting time and saving on account of transshipment. The benefit to users will be in terms of lower unit costs and tax benefits.