Constructing and equipping India’s deepest all-weather private sea port



K. Sridharan, with Pabak Mukhopadhyay, Sutanu Ganguly, Deepak Kumar, Ramkumar, Debashis Ghosh and Kuntal Pakhira, Larsen & Toubro Ltd. – ECC Division, Manapakkam, Chennai, India


Built as an integrated bulk terminal, primarily for coal and iron ore handling, the construction of Dhamra Port was not without its challenges


The Dhamra-Chandbali Port is located north of the river Dhamra, about 68 km from Bhadrak District in Orissa, between Haldia and Paradip, India.

The port is being developed by Dhamra Port Company Limited (DPCL) as a 50:50 joint venture between Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Tata Steel, on Build, Own, Operate, Share and Transfer (BOOST) basis. The Port Company has been given a concession to operate the port for a period of 34 years, including a period of four years for construction.

With a draft of 18 meters, Dhamra is one of the deepest ports in India, and can accommodate super-capesize vessels up to 180,000 DWT, and has a total cargo handling capacity of 25 million tons per annum. The master plan for the overall port when completed provides for 13 berths, capable of handling more than 100 million tons per annum of dry bulk, liquid bulk, breakbulk, containerized and general cargo.

The location of Dhamra is in close proximity to the mineral belt of Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal, and its deep draft is for large vessels that will make the port one of the most cost-effective and efficient on the eastern coast of India.

Integrated Port Project

DPCL entrusted the contract for Phase-I construction of the port to Larsen & Toubro covering a wide gamut of operations such as civil, mechanical and electr ical works, as well as construction of the railway network which will connect the port with the Indian Railways’ network at Bhadrak on the Howrah- Bhubaneswar route.

Various operating companies (OCs) and Business Units within L&T took up different construction activities under phase-I. Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick India Pvt. Ltd, the Indian arm of the UK-based Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick, has been appointed the project management consultant. L&T’s scope of work for the construction of Dhamra Integrated Port Project included the following facilities:

• A fully mechanized 700-meter-long jetty

• Material handling system with 7.2km long conveyor network for handling imports of coal, limestone and export of iron ore.

• Construction of railway embankments and bridges from Bhadrak to Dhamra; as well as autosignalling, telecommunication and electrification for the railway itself.

The construction of Phase-I, which commenced in April 2007, was completed in all respects by July 31, 2010 and has been in commercial operation since December 2010. The port has received all necessary clearances including environmental clearance from Government of India, consent from Orissa Pollution Control Board and rail traffic clearance from Indian Railways. Dhamra Port is expected to become an infrastructural hub on the east coast of India that will boost the industrial and economic development of the region and the country. At the peak of construction more than 250 staff and 5000 workmen were employed at the project, and the site clocked more than 26 million injury-free man-hours as on May 12, 2010 on its safety record, which led to winning the coveted RoSPA gold award for 2010.

Major challenges

Apart from braving the waves and cyclonic storms, L&T engineers had to fight against several odds to meet the stringent deadlines set by the client, such as:

Site access – The most critical problem everyone faced during the construction of the project was the long temporary single-lane access road. Since there was a delay in land clearance, settlement and handing over of the land for road construction, everyone had to use this only access route, which was a real ordeal for every member of staff and vendor visiting the site. In order to avoid daytime road congestion, all goods and materials were transported only during night-time, with adequate safety and security measures.

Turtle-friendly lighting – As per environmental protection guidelines issued by IUCN, a turtle-friendly lighting system was adopted so that turtles would not be attracted towards the project construction lighting. This was a conditional requirement and project authorities, including all contractors, had to abide by the same in order not to disturb the nesting and hatching habits of Olive Ridley Turtles. For this purpose, sodium vapor lamps with protective covers were used in place of halogen and metal halide lamps.

Bulk materials scarcity – The project continuously faced bulk materials scarcity throughout its construction phase, so alternative materials were constantly tried out. For example, extensive use of ordinary Portland cement was replaced with slag cement. Crusher dust and weather rocks were used for plant road construction work. A proper Disaster Management Plan was prepared and kept in place to meet exigencies during cyclonic storms. This outlined a clear evacuation plan for labor, staff and materials; and the resources were reinstated at the end of the season. There was a shortage of skilled manpower too; however, local workmen were trained to mitigate this situation.

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