By Su Mohan
Gopalpur Port now strides ahead as a new gateway to the east coast of India.
Though Gopalpur Ports Limited (GPL) started commercial operations from its all-weather port on March 29, 2013, it was temporarily closed after cyclone Phailin struck Odisha coast on October 12, 2013. Now the operations began and the ships back at Phailin hit port.
Gopalpur Port, a major venture of OSL Group, is being developed with an investment of rupees 2,000 crore in three phases with a capacity to load 40 million tonnes (mt) of cargo a year.
“We have constructed a multi-purpose berth with a capacity to handle 3.50 million tonnes of cargo. Two more berths would be added very soon to handle more cargo”, Director (Operations) of Gopalpur Ports Limited Mr. Man Mohan Moharana said to OdishaLIVE.
Gopalpur Port presently has adequate stock yard space for storage of bulk and break bulk cargo and it is on the process of up-gradation. Besides the open stock yard, there are 15 covered sheds with a total area of 12 thousand square meters for storage of break bulk cargoes. Quick evacuation of the cargoes would be through NH-516 – a two lane road upgradable to 8 lanes in future connecting NH 16 which is just 6 kilometers away.
Gopalpur Port will serve the factories and the mineral rich hinterland of Odisha, Jharkhand and Chattishgarh. The port facilities are being developed to provide the lowest cost and most efficient option for users in this area, said Mr. Mahimananda Mishra, Managing Director of GPL.
In 1987, the Odisha government had established Gopalpur as a seasonal anchorage port. In 2006, the government handed it over to the GPL for its expansion and management. The GPL had entered into an MOU with the State government to take over the port and develop it into a major all-weather one on Build-Operate-Own-Share-Transfer (BOOST) basis. The port operation was stopped since 2010 for its up gradation to an all weather port. Before 2010, the port, located at Arjeepalli, was functioning as a seasonal port.
The state government had awarded the Rs 1200-crore port development project to Orissa Stevedores Limited (OSL), Sara International Limited (SIL) and Hong Kong-based Noble Group in September 2006 for development and operations for an initial period of 30 years, extendable by another 20. The Nobel Group had, however, pulled out of the project during 2010. The Odisha government had rejected a proposal by Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) to acquire 49 per cent stake in Gopalpur Ports Ltd (GPL) during 2013 on the plea that according to the agreement, the Gopalpur port could not be transferred before its operation for at least three years.
Gopalpur Port Ltd (GPL), a special purpose vehicle promoted jointly by Orissa Stevedores Ltd and Sara International Limited (SIL) has invested Rs 421.09 crore during 2007-08 to September-end of 2011-12. The port developer which is developing the seasonal port at Gopalpur into an all-weather port has invested Rs 51.09 crore in 2007-08, Rs 30 crore in 2008-09, Rs 50 crore in 2009-10, Rs 40 crore in 2010-11 and more than Rs 300 crore in 2011-12.
Gopalpur is the only port among at least 10 owned by the Orissa government that was awarded through a competitive bidding process.
Besides the port, work on other supporting infrastructure like power distribution system, railway and road connectivity is in progress.
The port authorities also claimed the local people were given priority during employment. “While the agreement with the government stipulated jobs for 35% locals in the port, we have provided employment to virtually 92% people of Ganjam district,” said Mr. Mahimananda Mishra, Managing Director of Gopalpur Port Limited (GPL), the developer of the port into an all-weather one. He also said that more people would get jobs when the port becomes fully operational. As many as 4,888 people have been registered with the port authorities to get employment, sources said.
Gopalpur Port is located along the Bay of Bengal in Odisha at a latitude of 19018’13.44″N / Longitude 84057’52.72″E. The location is near the village Arjipali, almost midway of a 22 km stretch of coastline between Gopalpur-on-sea and Rushikulya River mouth in the North. Paradip and Visakhapatnam Ports are located at a distance of 160 km North and 260 km South respectively of Gopalpur port.
The Port is being developed on a 4 km stretch of coast line, which is devoid of vegetation. This area is barren and falls in the rain shadow region. There are no mangrove/tidal rain forest. This area is not home to any endangered species of flora or fauna. The other sensitive area which may be of concern to other ports like nesting grounds of Olive Ridley Turtles are also not in the Port Zone. Nor is the proposed site near any heritage, historical or any place of national importance.
State commerce and transport minister Mr. Ramesh Chandra Majhi said the state government has signed MoUs with private companies for developing four ports, including Gopalpur, Dhamra, Subarnarekha and Astaranga. The investments have made four minor port developers- Dhamara Port Company Ltd (DPCL), Gopalpur Ports Ltd (GPL), Creative Port Development Ltd and Navayug Engineering Ltd.
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