For the first time in the maritime history of the country, Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT), the oldest operating port in India, is expected to present its own tableau, under the aegis of the union shipping ministry, in the upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26.
The oldest surviving major port in the country, which completed 150 years in November last year, will showcase its rich history under the tageline of ‘Glorious Past Vibrant Future’. It is a part of its sesquicentennial celebration this year.
It will be the first time any port in the country will present its tableau in the Republic Day parade.
“The tableau is in the last stages of approval from the defence ministry and the final nod is likely soon,” Vinit Kumar, chairman at KoPT, told Business Standard.
Sources said the tableau will showcase the mechanised transformation of Kolkata Port and its unique features, such as the 200-tonne capacity cranes and the various facilities offered by the port.
In addition, the KoPT anthem, which prime minister Narendra Modi unveiled on the 150th year celebration of KoPT on January 12 in Kolkata, will be played. It will be accompanied by dancers and musicians, typical to the Parade norms.
“KoPT has a rich history and part of it will be reflected in the tableau. It is through this the people in the country would be able to understand the rich maritime heritage of India,” the source said.
Situated 232 km upstream from Sandheads in the Bay of Bengal, Kolkata Port is the only riverine major port in India, which dates back its foundation to the East India Company when Mughal emperor Aurangzeb granted the Company trading rights in east India in the 18th century.
After the British Raj established its hegemony in the Indian territories hitherto held by the Company, a port commission was set up in 1870 to govern this port which finally evolved into a commercial as well as strategic harbour for the country. Not only it boosted trade and commerce in the Bengal Presidency, the hinterland, comprising of Nepal, Bhutan and landlocked states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh (Awadh) and others also benefitted from increased trade and commerce.
During the Second World War, the Japanese had bombarded Kolkata Port twice realising its strategic importance to the British Raj.
After independence, the Commissioners for the Port of Kolkata held power till January 1975 when Major Port Trusts Act, 1963, came into force which gave the final shape to the KoPT of the modern day.
However, over the years, Kolkata Port, faced with serious siltation issues, which required time and fund consuming dredging process, and lack of mechanised facilities, started losing business to the more modern east coast ports of Paradip and Dhamra in Odisha and Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.
Over the past five years, the port, however, bounced back by posting handling of 63.76 million tonnes (mt) of traffic in 2018-19 creating an all-time record in the history of the port surpassing the previous highest of 57.891 mt handled in 2017-18. KoPT also registered a growth of 10.14 per cent over traffic handled in 2017-18, which was the second highest among the major ports in India, and was much higher than the average growth rate of 2.9 per cent clocked by all the major ports.
In the same fiscal year, Kolkata Port ranked third amongst all the major ports in Container traffic handling. Total number of Containers handled at KoPT during 2018-19 increased by 4.18 per cent to 8,29,482 TEUs from 7,96,211 TEUs in 2017-18. Containerised cargo also increased at the port to 1,30,74,461 tonnes in 2018-19 from 1,24,32,329 tonnes in 2017-18, representing a 5.17 per cent growth.
This fiscal year, KoPT has set a target of 10 per cent growth in cargo handling to 70 mt.
On 12 January this year, Modi renamed the port to Syama Prasad Mukherjee Port on occasion of 150 years of operation and commemorate Mukherjee’s contribution to maritime development of independent India.