Grounding had ‘no major impact’ on trade; secondary channels opened up

Container ship ‘Kota Rajin’, which ran aground at the Syama Prasad Mookherjee Port, Kolkata (former Kolkata Port Trust), was re-floated on Sunday.

The vessel had run aground on Friday on its way to Kolkata from Singapore.

According to Vinit Kumar, Chairman, Syama Prasad Mookherjee Port, there has been “no major impact” on trade and secondary channels were opened to allow other vessels to come in during the period when re-floating operations were on.

“The forward part of the vessel, Kota Rajin, had run into the shore and had embedded there. It was re-floated on Sunday afternoon,” he said.

Shoaling in channel

The container ship, with a capacity of 600 TEUs (twenty equivalent units) had run aground at the Falta stretch — a channel maintained by the port — a few kilometers off Kolkata. Of the 511 TEUs the ship was carrying, 162 TEUs were for Haldia Dock and the remaining 348 TEUs for Kolkata.

The Falta channel has been facing shoaling — wave shoaling is the effect by which surface waves entering shallower water change in wave height — thereby leading to difficulties in navigability and lower draft.

According to port officials, the shoaling caused the container ship to change course and it ran aground. It was stuck to the shore.

“Navigating riverine ports require expertise and there has been shoaling too. This led to the incident, “ a senior official involved in the re-floating operations said, requesting anonymity.

Port officials used excavators (JCBs) to loosen the sand thereby enabling release of the forward part (called bulbus bow in shipping parlance) of the ship.

“Two tugs (tug boats) from Kolkata Dock and three from Haldia Dock were used to re-float Kota Rajin,” the official involved in the operations said. The “unexpected” shoaling in the Falta stretch has raised concern among the port authorities and the shipping industry.

Rare occurence

The depth at Kolkata Dock System (KDS) is typically lower during the winter season and the lean draft season extends from late November to February every year.

“But this year, there was a rare occurrence of sudden shoaling at Falta stretch of the shipping channel,” Chairman Vinit Kumar told stake holders in an April 16 letter.

“This was an abrupt phenomenon and could not be predicted. As a result, draft cuts of 0.2-0.3 m had to be made and the lean draft season extended beyond February to March,” Kumar said.

To overcome this, the port deployed additional dredgers and a secondary channel was opened-up for shipping. The draft reductions have since been withdrawn.

Source: The Hindu Business Line