Kandla port seen closed for two weeks
Commercial operations at India's busiest port, the Kandla port in earthquake-hit Gujarat, are unlikely to resume before the middle of February because of damage, shippers and officials said on Tuesday.
They said ships were being diverted to Bombay and other ports in the region for loading and unloading of cargo.
"We do not see any movement of cargo in or out of the port for the next two weeks at least," Adrian Desouza, an official of inspection and testing company Geo Chem, said over the phone from Kandla.
He said almost every building in Kandla was cracked and the main bridge connecting the town of Gandhidham to the port, as well as major roads in the area had been badly damaged.
"The port might say it is ready but other infrastructure has to be in place," Desouza said.
Desouza said the Kandla Port Trust issued a circular on Tuesday declaring the port closed for operations from the morning of Friday as a force majeure and said the situation would be reviewed at a meeting on February 2.
Kandla port has seen no commercial activity since Friday's huge earthquake which killed at lest 20,000 people.
The quake damaged at least 50 per cent of the buildings in Kandla. Officials said it affected jetty and warehousing operations but they did not give details.
Kandla has 15 jetties -- seven for liquid and the rest for general cargo -- and handles 17 per cent of the cargo passing through India's 12 largest ports.
Cargo includes crude oil, petroleum products, chemicals and agricultural commodities such as cooking oils and soybean meal used in animal feed.
Another company official said two cargo jetties had developed cracks on their surface and an oil jetty had also been affected. "The other jetties are also not in a straight line anymore."
An official of a leading shipping firm also said no commercial activity could take place at the port for the next two weeks or so since there was no power, water and few workers.
"Even if port authorities put some things in order the manpower is not there. People are fleeing the place," he said.
"The port is navigable but no commercial activity is there because there is no power and some damage to the port," added a naval ministry spokesman, Commander Rahul Gupta.
He said although no cargo or crude oil were being offloaded, relief provisions from four naval ships and two coastguard vessels stationed at Kandla were being offloaded manually.
"It is not estimated when commercial activity can begin because the focus is on relief," Gupta said.
Gupta said although there was no power at Kandla, the port was not crippled as naval vessels had got through. "Some of the ships which were there sailed out and some of the berths have been made operational."
The managing director of the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO) said 10 ships were stalled outside the port.
"Ships are waiting outside the port. I can see around 10 ships," US Awasthi said. "I think port authorities will start allowing ships to come inside in a day or two."
K M Joseph, director of state-run Shipping Corporation of India, said ships were being diverted to other ports for loading.
He said one SCI ship carrying phosphoric acid for IFFCO's Kandla plant was also waiting outside Kandla port.