India's Largest Port Damaged By Quake

Tuesday, January 30, 2001
Operations at India's busiest port, Kandla, have been affected by the powerful earthquake which devastated western India on Friday, but small ports nearby survived the impact and are operating normally, according to shipping industry sources and government officials.

M Pinto, secretary of the Shipping Ministry, said some godowns, or warehouses, at the Kandla port were badly damaged. A signal station at the port was also damaged but had resumed operating by late Friday. Normal operations at Kandla port could resume by Saturday or early Sunday after ensuring that the shipping channel serving the port is clear, he said.

A Shipping Ministry spokesman said operations at Kandla port were stopped after the earthquake but "people are working at a war footing to resume operations." Kandla handles 17 percent of the cargo passing through India's 12 largest ports, according to shipping industry data. The executive director of the Solvent Extractors' Association of India, B V Mehta, said it was difficult to comment on the movement of commodities to and from Kandla port as all telephone lines in the area were down. "We are not able to contact people there," he said. "But some unconfirmed reports say movement of commodities could be affected for some time due to damage to a few roads and bridges," he said without elaborating.

K M Joseph, director of the state-run Shipping Corporation of India, said a company ship carrying phosphoric acid from Morocco had been waiting at Kandla port to offload the cargo. "Normalcy could be restored in a couple of days," he added. Shipping companies said they had no reports of any major damage at small ports in Gujarat. "Fortunately our port is safe and sound," Nikhil Gandhi, vice chairman of Gujarat Pipavav Port Ltd, said.

Pipavav, a small port capable of handling 12.7 million tonnes of cargo per year, is located about 450 kms (270 miles) from Kandla port. "We shipped a container vessel on Friday and presently are loading cement on another ship," Gandhi said. The port of Rosi, though located very near Kandla, escaped virtually unscathed. – (Reuters)

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