According to industry sources, trains have left from Visakhapatnam and Bokaro in Jharkhand carrying around 11 cryogenic oxygen containers in total on Thursday. The trains will reach western and northern regions on Saturday and Sunday.
“Oxygen Express train loaded with liquid medical oxygen tankers from Visakhapatnam has reached Nashik. Four Oxygen tankers have been unloaded to provide additional oxygen to patients,” said Union minister Piyush Goyal in his Tweet on Saturday.
The first Oxygen Express with seven empty cryogenic tankers with a total carrying capacity of more than 100 tonnes of LMO reached steelmaker RINL’s facility in the early hours on April 21-22.
“At the newly built ramp within the plant premises, out of seven tankers, four tankers were of 16- tonne capacity and three were of 14 tonnes,” the company said in a statement.
Apart from the rail mode of transport, some empty cryogenic tankers from Pune were airlifted to Jamshedpur, West Bengal, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack to fill in oxygen. Two flights with 3-4 containers reached Delhi on Friday and the entire process took about 2-3 hours. Airlifting continues to happen from the eastern region, whereas rail is the preferred mode from the southern parts.
The Indian Air Force, on Saturday, brought four cryogenic tanks, to be used for transporting oxygen, from Singapore. The containers were airlifted from Singapore by C17 heavy-lift aircraft of the IAF.
German air supplier Linde, together with the Tata Group, had secured 24 oxygen transport tanks that will be airlifted to India. Sources said that the company will be airlifting the same on Sunday. On Saturday, Indian multinational conglomerate ITC said that it has tied up with Linde India to import 24 cryogenic containers to transport medical oxygen.
Oxygen makers believe that this should ease the dependence on road transport to a small extent.
“Maharashtra and UP are definitely benefiting from rail and airlifting services. It’s a huge cushion for the overall supply chain, which is under pressure,” said Sidharth Jain, director, INOX Products.
However, this is just a temporary relief to the road transporters, he said. The high-level oxygen-deficient states continue to be Maharashtra and Delhi, he said.
Yet another oxygen maker said that the issue of logistics lies with management and monitoring,
“The capacity of a tanker is up to 20 tonnes of oxygen, but some of them fill it up with just around 6-10 tonnes. This is the issue we are facing right now,” said RS Sachdeva, MD, Hi-Tech Industrial Gases.
Additional secretary Sumita Dawra, in-charge of oxygen supply, told the SC during a hearing on oxygen short supply, said while the country’s production capacity, both industrial and medical, is around 7,200 metric tonnes (MT) a day, the requirement is over 8,000 MT due to the Covid situation.