Introduction

Gopalpur is a tiny village originally on the south-east coast of Odisha, originally equipped with facilities for simple fishing vessels, the adjoining port of the village evolved into a commercial port over 300 years ago. This was developed under the ownership of the local Soraine family and gradually the port became quite prominent in timber trading with Myanmar (then Burma). It also handled a sizeable number of immigrants from India going to Myanmar and the nearby areas for work. The family also built a lighthouse and established hostelry for visitors and travellers at Gopalpur.

By the time the East India Company had penetrated into the remote locations of India, some family feuds and disputes had started plaguing the landlord’s family. Eventually, most of the land and assets got transferred to British missionaries. In due course, when the trade with Myanmar picked up, mainly driven by the rice from Yangon, the East India Company created more storage to facilitate the trade.

Gopalpur Minor Port

In the wake of World War II, Myanmar was in total disarray along with most of the Malayan peninsula and trade with Gopalpur had declined. Consequently, the original port at Gopalpur lost its importance in overseas trade and gradually turned into a small port for lighterage operations and fishing. The location’s (Latitude: 19°18' N, Longitude: 84° 58' E) vulnerability to strong nautical gales and cyclones prevalent on ECI during monsoons made it seasonal and the port was functional normally from October to March. Over the years, a berth over 200 metres long was built to accommodate multiple lighters concurrently along with fishing vessels. Cargo handling was managed through 5 cranes with Safe Working Load (SWL) ranging from 15 MT to 30 MT. About 3,000 sq. meter of covered storage and 30,000 sq. meter of open storage (paved + unpaved) was also available.

The minor port started foundering largely due its seasonality and inadequacy in combating siltation close to shore that pushed the anchorage point further out to the sea and made navigation difficult in patches. Therefore, in the year 2006, the Government of Odisha decided to augment and convert the port into an all-weather port with berths and contracted the port out to private entrepreneurs.

Ownership, Formation, and Commencement

In 2006, the Government of Odisha signed an agreement with Gopalpur Port Limited (GPL), a consortium promoted by three companies – Noble Group from Hongkong, Sara International from Delhi and Orissa Stevedores Limited of Odisha, awarding the work of augmentation and conversion of the anchorage port into an all–weather port on BOOST (Build, Own, Operate, Share and Transfer) basis.

The development work of the port suffered from very early stages reportedly due to delays in the availability of funds for the expansion plan. Differences among the stakeholders were also reported and in May 2010, one of the stakeholders, the Hong Kong based Noble Group left the consortium. According to newspaper reports, Sara International had also remained a relatively silent equity participant without showing serious intent to contribute to the port's funding. During 2011 - 2013, Jindal Steel & Power Ltd (JSPL) had meanwhile expressed interest to take 49% - 60% of the stake of GPL, but they were turned down by the Government of Odisha due to the limitation of legal provisions of the original concession agreement.

GPL started its commercial operation in July 2013 with a small shipment of 7500 MT, but the port’s operations were affected drastically, thereafter, due to the consequences of two back to back tropical cyclonesPhalin and Hud Hud in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

After renovation and repairs, the port could resume normal commercial operations only by end of 2015 and ramped up to full-scale operations with one berth from April 2016. In 2017, the Government of Odisha agreed to accept induction of Shapoorji Pallonji as the majority stakeholder of GPL with Orissa Stevedores Limited retaining the balance stake. The Concession Agreement is for a period of 30 years with an option for extension by another 20 years.

Port Features: GPL

Location

GPL is located about 167 KM to the south of Paradip Port and around 205 KM to the north of Visakhapatnam Port.

Road Connectivity

Provided by NH 16 (previously NH 5) connecting Kolkata and Chennai under the Golden Quadrilateral. The Port is connected to NH 16 by NH 516.

Rail Connectivity

GPL currently uses the siding of Indian Rare Earths Limited for its railway traffic; the siding is served by the station at Chatrapur, the nearest large town is about 6 km away.

Berth And Cargo

GPL has been operating with one multi-purpose berth of 225 M, offering safe draught of 12 M. The declared capacity of the berth is around 3.5 MTPA although the actual throughput so far, is in the region of 1.5 MTPA. Main cargoes handled include Ilmenite Sand, Coking Coal, Iron Ore pellets, Industrial Salt, Steel Plates, Lime Stone and other minerals.

Other Infrastructure

Mobile Harbour Cranes and grabs are available; also available is an automated plant for bagging and stitching of fertilizer. For covered storage, there are 10 warehouses while about 2,000 sq. meter of paved area is available inside GPL.

Navigation

Managed as of now using two Harbour Tugs.

  • Ship Support And Supplies
  • Provisions and stores are available locally to a reasonable extent. Freshwater is available at berth through pipeline although according to reports, it requires treatment before consumption.
  • No bunkering facility available although IOCL, Paradip is supplying port crafts with bunkers moved by road tankers. GPL permits bunkering of vessels likewise by IOCL, Paradip. No bunkering facility is available at anchorage.
  • Crew embarkation/ disembarkation is allowed on a case to case basis by local authorities.

Hinterland And Business

In the normal course, the port has a natural hinterland in south and western Odisha, northern Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. However, it has to contend with two very large ports – Paradip and Visakhapatnam on either side of the coast who also command inter alia over the same hinterland.

A major growth prospect of GPL is linked with the Gopalpur Industrial Park being set up by Tata Steel SEZ. Gopalpur Industrial Park is located around 170 Km from Bhubaneswar and it is being developed on a contiguous land parcel of 1202 Ha. The park has different areas for Domestic Tariff Area (DTA) for India centric manufacturing and multi-product Special Economic Zones (SEZ) for export-centric manufacturing; concurrent social infrastructure is being developed for people working in the industries.

  • Plants And Units
  • Tata Steel Limited has already invested USD 80 million and commissioned a 55,000 TPA high carbon ferro-chrome plant.
  • Mumbai based Sure Safety Solutions Private Limited in association with Meggitt Corporation, UK, is setting up an aerial target manufacturing facility for the Indian Defence sector.
  • Gemini Edibles & Fats India Private Limited (GEF India) has already proposed to set up a vegetable oil refinery at the Industrial Park. The plant is planned to produce 396 KTPA of Refined SFO, Palm Oil and vegetable fats at a total investment of INR 300 crore.
  • The most notable among other investors who have shown interest to set up units in the park are a Taiwanese firm for a Naphtha plant, a Russian company for a Steel Downstream unit, a wellness product facility and a cell phone manufacturing hub.

(To be continued in Issue XXVI)