The country's first International Container Transhipment Terminal was dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh at Vallarpadom in Kochi on Feb 11, 2011. The terminal is the largest of its kind in the country and the first to operate in a Special Economic Zone.
Cochin has a unique geo strategic advantage compared to other ports in India. The all-weather port is strategically located on the East-West Trade route, just 10 nautical miles away from the direct sea-route to Australia and the Far East from Europe. No other port in the country enjoys this proximity to the maritime highway. Besides, it is a gateway to the vast industrial and agricultural produce markets of the southern and western parts of the country.
The new terminal at Vallarpadam has been built by the Dubai Port World with an investment of nearly 1600 crore rupees. As per, the concession agreement signed between the Cochin Port Trust and Dubai Port World for the construction, Dubai Port World will build the terminal, operate it for a period of 30 years and then transfer the assets back to the Cochin Port. The Port on its part has provided rail and road connectivity besides the dredging for widening and deepening of approach channels to provide 14.5 meter draft. This will ensure handling of the largest container ships afloat. Capital dredging of berth basin is in progress now and is expected to be completed by April. The Port has also set up Roll on and Roll Off facilities to help movement of containers on barges. The union government has invested 1617 crore rupees for providing connectivity and allied infrastructure for the project.
The foundation stone for the terminal was also laid by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in 2005. In the first phase of the project which is being inaugurated tomorrow, the terminal will have a quay length of 600 meters and a capacity to handle ten lakh twenty foot equivalent units [TEU] of containers a year. The terminal has state of art cargo handling facilites, including four Quay Cranes, 11 Rubber Tyred Gantry Cranes, two Reach Stackers and a stacking area which can accommodate about 10,000 containers. In the second phase, the quay length will be increased to 1800 meters and the handling capacity raised to 30 lakh containers annually. All vessel related income will accrue to the port, while cargo related income will be collected by the Dubai Port World, which will share one third of its gross revenue with the port.
A substantial portion of the country's container traffic today is transshipped through Colombo, Dubai and Singapore. This has resulted in additional costs and time delays to the extent of seven to ten days. The Vallarpadam terminal will provide facilities for handling mother ships, thereby obviating the need for transshipment of containers through other countries, resulting in a saving of about 300 US $ per container. With reduced transportation cost, produce from the country will become more competitive in the international markets which consequently increase the foreign trade volume.
The Vallarpadam International Container Transhipment Terminal opens up immense potential for allied industries in the region, which includes new container freight stations, inland container depots, transportation of cargo through inland waterways, logistics and warehousing centers, thus generating substantial employment opportunities. The new terminal will make Cochin a key centre in the shipping world and will help accelerate economic development of Kerala as well as the whole country.
Raj Mohan, AIR Correspondent, Kochi