Cochin Port Authority (CPA) is planning to go ahead with further deepening of the shipping channel with an aim to attract more vessels to the port. This is despite the negative growth registered in container handling in the financial year 2022-23 at Vallarpadam International Container Transhipment Terminal (ICTT).

The ports ministry had recently given in-principle approval to CPA for deepening draft depth at Vallarpadam ICTT. This is aimed at developing it as a successful transshipment hub of the region — to position as a competitor to Colombo — and to attain self-reliance in container transshipment. However, critics strongly criticized it citing that the project would put CPA in a financial crisis. The port’s employees’ organizations too demanded that CPA should not go ahead with the plan.

Despite opposition, CPA has now decided to appoint a team from IIT-Madras to conduct a detailed feasibility study on further deepening the channel to accommodate bigger ships at the port. “Without providing sufficient draft, the port cannot attract international vessels and it would badly affect the functioning of the port. We are planning to conduct a detailed study before launching the project. A study by IIT-Madras is under consideration. We will soon finalize the project,” said a source at CPA.

The Union government had been striving hard to develop ICTT into a successful international transshipment hub in the region. But the terminal registered a sharp decline in the number of containers (TEUs) handled during the last financial year. CPA had planned to attract transshipment business from Colombo port in view of the economic and political uncertainties in Sri Lanka last year. But CPA’s move did not help ICTT attain growth, and the port authorities are planning to further deepen the shipping channel as a solution to the issue.

Following the decline in growth, Dubai Port (DP) World, which is managing ICTT, contended that the port can attract more vessels only if the depth was increased.

As per license agreement, Cochin Port is liable to provide depth required for 14.5m draft vessels.

Meanwhile, the Cochin Port Employees Organisation is alleging that DP World had failed to attract vessels that require 14.5m depth, which is now provided by the port, incurring an annual cost of Rs 140 crore, and further deepening is not necessary. “Additional dredging will cost around Rs 2,000 crore. If CPA is going ahead with the project, they should reach an agreement with DP World to raise productivity of the port,” said C D Nandakumar, general convener of Cochin Port joint trade union. Among major ports in the country, Cochin port currently tops in the annual maintenance dredging to maintain its draft in the last three years. According to data available with the ministry of ports, shipping and waterways, around 72.5 million cubic metres (MCUM) was dredged at Cochin port, followed by Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Maharashtra(50.16MCUM).

Source: maritimegateway