The Kandla port in Gujarat’s Kutch district-India’s biggest state-owned port by volumes handled and the nation’s second busiest port’s march is threatened due to infrastructure constraints.
Deendayal Port Authority, the entity that runs the port at Kandla reported growing traffic at the port, however, to support this an alternative road link and an upgradation of Kandla airport for movement of people and cargo is required.
In FY2023, Kandla Port handled 137.56 million tonnes (mt) of cargo marking a growth of 8.23 percent over the 127.10 mt in the previous year. 70% of the cargo handled at Kandla is evacuated by road, while 10% percent by rail and 20% through pipeline.
By 2030, the port is expected to report an annual growth rate of 10 percent, doubling its cargo to 267 mt.
India’s western region is home to the largest public and private ports, with Kandla and Mundra, both located in Kutch district, account for some 20 percent of the nation’s total cargo volumes of about 1,500 mt shipped by the sea route.
Therefore, we can’t have the biggest ports of the nation with obvious logistical disadvantages.
Infrastructure Upgrades Underway
Kandla port which is connected to the hinterland via NH-41, NH-27 and NH-8A, currently under the Maritime India Vision 2030 is undergoing several capacity augmentation projects.
As per Nandeesh Shukla, Deputy Chairman, Deendayal Port Authority, “The existing road connectivity from Gandhidham to Maliya via Bhachau, Samakhiyali and Surajbari would not be enough to meet the growing traffic. To support the huge traffic growth, it becomes imperative to strengthen the road infrastructure/connectivity for seamless movement of export-import (EXIM) cargo from/to the catchment areas.”
The construction of a new highway linking Gandhidham with Maliya is being done to provide better connectivity between Kandla and the rest of the country.
This proposed alternate highway stretch with an estimated cost of INR 5,250 crores and 35 kms shorter than the existing Gandhidham-Maliya link, will save fuel of about INR 1,200 cores and forex savings of about $160 million annually. It is also in line with the government’s ambition of reducing logistics costs and achieving net-zero emissions.
The alternate road route is vital to guard against contingent events, force majeure or natural calamities and war like situation with India’s neighbouring country.
It will also act as a catalyst to attract investment near to Morbi and Navlakhi port areas for export-oriented tile manufacturing units and other bulk cargo imports such as coal and other raw materials.
On the rail side, the doubling and electrification of Ahmedabad-Gandhidham line and Palanpur-Gandhidham line are undeway.
Up gradation of Airport is being done to meet the growing demand for people mobility and cargo transportation coming from the emerging industrial hub-Kutch.
The runway at Kandla airport is fit for operating only ATR aircraft at present.
“The runway of Kandla airport needs to be extended to accommodate bigger aircraft,” Teja Kangad, President of the Gandhidham Chamber of Commerce & Industry, wrote in a letter to Jyotiraditya Scindia, Minister of Civil Aviation. “The upgradation of Kandla airport will boost the economy of the nation,” he added.
The chamber has hired consultancy firm Jacobs Solutions Inc. to undertake a study on upgrading the airport at Kandla.
Deendayal Port Authority Chairman, S K Mehta highlighting that the accelerated infrastructure development in the Kutch region demands for better connectivity through all modes of transport for both people and cargo urges the Indian Railways to start a daily intercity train service between Gandhidham and Sabarmati/Ahmedabad as well as an overnight semi high-speed train service between Gandhidham and Delhi.
Gandhidham area is the biggest source of freight earnings for the Western Railway with the attendant focus on freight connectivity.
“However, new developments will entail movement of a large number of professionals to and from Gandhidham from the metro cities of Ahmedabad and Delhi. Hence, peoples’ connectivity should be considered equally important as freight connectivity,” Mehta wrote in a letter to Ashok Kumar Misra, General Manager, Western Railway.