Docking of 1st ship at Vizhinjam port on October 15, will mark a significant milestone

By, Kochi
Oct 13, 2023 09:10 AM IST

Officials say that the port will be able to handle container vessels with up to 24,000 TEU capacity.

With the docking of the first ship on Sunday (October 15), the under-construction Vizhinjam Seaport, the country’s first deepwater container transshipment terminal, near Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala will mark a significant milestone.

The port project is expected to be completed by May 2024. (HT Photo)
The port project is expected to be completed by May 2024. (HT Photo)

According to the documents of the project, the first phase of the 7,600 crore mega infra project, which began in 2015, is expected to be completed by May 2024. When fully realised, the port will have the capacity to cater to 75% of the container transshipment needs of India.

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Officials say that the port will be able to handle container vessels with up to 24,000 TEU capacity. Around 800 metres of berth and nearly 3,000 metres of breakwater is being readied as part of the first phase of construction.

The Vizhinjam port is being built on a public-private-partnership (PPP) mode with funding from the Kerala government, Centre and the Adani Ports Private Limited being the developer. In fact, it is the first greenfield port project to receive viability gap funding from the government of India, the project documents said.

Located just 10 nautical miles from the international shipping line and gifted with a natural depth of 18 metres, the port has the potential to give a tremendous boost to the country’s maritime trade which is currently suffering due to the lack of a major port in southern India.

The depth at Vizhinjam is more than that of any competing port in the country and is either more than or equal to that of international competing ports like Singapore, Colombo and Salalah in Oman, the documents stated.

This will enable large container vessels traversing the international shipping routes to seamlessly access the port at Vizhinjam. The strategic location of the port, being the only one in India to be so close to the east-west shipping channel, is a major asset.

Once fully commissioned, the port can directly compete with neighbouring ports like Colombo in Sri Lanka, Jebel Ali in Dubai and Singapore which handle a major share of the international transshipment needs currently. It will enhance India’s ability to handle gateway and transshipment cargo and at the same time establish a strong supply chain network in Kerala.

Around 3 million TEUs of cargo containers bound for India are transshipped annually at ports like Colombo and Singapore currently, a statistic which can be cut down significantly once the Vizhinjam port becomes operational.

The documents stated that the port will have the capacity to handle cargo of 1 million TEUs by the end of phase-1 which will rise to 3.3 million TEUs by phase-3.

It also enjoys good connectivity through the four-lane NH66 and the international airport in Thiruvananthapuram, located just 16 kms away. There is a proposal for a dedicated freight corridor on rail which will deepen the supply chain network.

Though the port is set to be realised soon, the journey for those behind it has not been easy. Initially planned to be completed in just 1000 days when it commenced construction in 2015, the port has suffered major delays due to various reasons.

Cyclone Ockhi at the Thiruvananthapuram coast in 2017 brought with it severe damage to the two dredgers that had been deployed as part of the port project.

Subsequently, in 2021, another Cyclone Tauktae in the Arabian Sea triggered massive tidal waves that broke off a portion of the breakwater, a critical component of the port in Vizhinjam. The Covid-19 pandemic that lingered for nearly two years was also a major factor contributing to the delay. If the natural disasters weren’t enough, in 2022, the port project was beset with massive protests by local fisherfolk. After multiple delays, the ambitious Vizhinjam port is finally headed towards commissioning next year.

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    Vishnu Varma is Assistant Editor and reports from Kerala for the Hindustan Times. He has 10 years of experience writing for print and digital platforms and has worked at The New York Times, NDTV and The Indian Express in the past. He specialises in longform reportage at the intersections of politics, crime, social commentary and environment.

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