The Gods Own Country that we know is a treasure of opportunities for the Maritime and Tourism sectors. With a land of nature and beauty, what we have is a 580 kms lengthy state with 4 locked districts with the rest directly linked by the sea. One could say that it is the perfect blend if natural beauty and southern culture and It’s up to us bring out those qualities and show it the world.
Let’s look at the Trivendrum District, Kanyakumari boarder to Manjeswaram of Kasargod district. With all places are well connected with roads and some parts with rail and airways, the advantage is of connectivity thru canals, rivers and back waters. With recent development, the 2.5 kms of Andhakarathodu that was built century ago by then king of Cochin Royal family, was renovated to be reused. KSINC and NWAI are working towards enhancing the utilization of back waters and rivers.
The Govt of Kerala has got many options to attract investors both from within India and abroad. But with the land costs being very high due to high density, terrains which can’t be used due to ecological restrictions and the western ghats with forests and hills, the opportunities are mainly on tourism and maritime. With the 17+1 minor ports of Kerala as the entry point along with connection to neighboring states through highways, there is a lot of potential. Our existing operational ports being Beypore, Azhikal , Kollam and Vizhinjam and rest of the ports are considered as monuments or for providing three meals a day for many people of port department.
We have Cochin Port, which is the entry for international trading and leased out a portion to DPWorld for developing the International transshipment terminal. The Kollam Port has better draft with approx 8 meters which can be dredged upto 10 meters, which is sufficient for cruise vessels ranging upto 180 meters of loa. Beypore and Azhikal are other options for cruises. Speedboats to connect between the north and south can be a major attraction to the state. It can help curb pollution and congestion on the roads, while at the same time help with commute. Speedboats of below 5mtrs draft are available to ferry 50 people at a time can bring down the cost of logistics along with other elements of benefits.
If we consider all the minor ports and its movable and immovable properties, Kerala ports are rich with assets worth more than 10000 crores… Every port has land and few got buildings and infrastructures. Projects can be implemented with financial aid from Sagarmala Projects of Central govt and NRIS and of course in the form of PPP. Kollam and Beypore are the most attractive ones. While Beypore trade and industries in North Kerala are keen on utilizing their public property, Kollam has the potentials to reduce operational/logistics costs for cargo meant to southern part of Kerala. Incentive schemes announced by state of Kerala are the advantage for operators to make up for their initial losses due to one sided cargo.
Large warehousing facilities available in few ports need to be sublet to FCIs, concors, CWC’s and other parties as per their requirements. Currently unused warehouses are still a problem for the state maritime board. What we need is an effective board which masters the ship of ports to new areas of opportunities for earning revenue. Unused equipments such as spreaders, quay cranes, vehicles are need to be leased out. Looking for International consultants before launching new projects and investments can go a long way.
Kollam and Beypore can be converted to cruise/cargo terminals operated by private parties. They can develop the port area. The vast area behind the port/wharfs needs to be converted to back up yards. Neendakara institute building and Kodungallore maritime society’s buildings need to be utilized for launching large scale academies. These can get financial support from the Sagarmala Skill development dept, and that can accommodate for approx 100 employment opportunities for those who can train thousands of youngsters for their future. Presently, training on dredging are the most attractive areas of skill development. Shipping and logistics graduates who are going out of state and also finding few private institutes for their acadamics can be accommodated in Kerala Maritime Academy, which otherwise has got only one govt institute IMU run by central govt. If we look into the past, many master mariners are from Kerala and they settle down in other parts of the country for their livelihood after sailing.
Expansions of backup yards, deep and increased LOA are a must for developing shipping activities by attracting ships into port. As mentioned earlier, the govt can concentrate on two ports initially and later expand its wings to other ports.
Ports should be facilitators for bringing business and people to the state. Proximity to the Gulf region, lakshadeep and Maldives are the advantage for Kerala Ports. State Govt should initiate talks with LDCL and Maldive authorities for tie-up and should do whatever we can. There are many people get stranded due to non availability of ships to travel and approx 66000 people who stays at Lakshadeep are facing these issues. Tender to operate cargo plus passenger ferries with latest advanced technologies will be a really boost for promoting relationship and business between state and LDCL. Port department is well connected or rather interlinked with Fisheries and Tourism. A joint interaction among these dept officials can enhance the efforts and thus the results for state. Tourism is the key revenue earner for state of Kerala. Almost 8 months long temple festivals and yearlong cultural activities will be great attraction for foreigners and people from other states. Information on these can be made available on sites and all airports/seaports.
The Kerala Govt has formed KMB to bring all minor ports, control on house boats, beaches, maritime society, and ksmdc under one roof for better coordination and productivity. The coordination among all minor ports and other activities are supposed to bring ease and transparency to doing business. By amalgamation of all three entities, KMB should be stronger and can even negotiate with trade/customers/other maritime boards and connect all minor ports of India together.
If we consider the efficiency and knowledge into assets, Kerala ports worth millions for assets. A plan for development of all ports and its ancillary areas has to be prepared. International consultants can be brought into the picture and DPRS can be submitted to Centre and Stage with a fixed time frame.
For many years NO concrete DPRS were ever submitted. Funds can be acquired if a proper sketch is made for development. Right now the inflow of revenue is only thru selling dredged sand, which should NOT be the core business for any port. Ports are meant for shipping activities. When trade and industries are keen on supporting by utilizing the facilities, it’s the job of govt/martime dept to meet with the need.
Malabar is neglected by the board. Although other areas aren’t supported, the difference between Malabar region and Travancore is that, enterprising people of Malabar are ready to receive the services and are keen on working together with the govt. Therefore it’s the duty and responsibility of State Maritime Board to ensure that all stake holders are involved and work together for the betterment of business and thus to generate new job opportunities for the aspirant youngsters. Kollam port as mentioned earlier has got vast opportunities and can serve its stake holders / industries, who have lost their confidence in the port. Hence by involving them in all activities and providing new services, we can bring them back to the fold, to boost their confidence and trust.
Our focus should be on the utilization of existing infrastructures and by involving public/trade/industries and all stakeholders as part of the federal system exists in Kerala and thereby make a cooperative effort towards the overall prosperity of the state.