The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Cochin Port Trust and Kottayam Port — the first multi-modal inland container depot (ICD) in the country using inland waterways to move cargo — is expected to cut logistics costs by using the waterway linking Kerala’s eastern and central Travancore regions with the International Container Transhipment Terminal at Vallarpadam in the Cochin Port Trust.
Compared with ₹2-3 per km for road movement of cargo, the cost of waterway movement is lower at ₹1.1-1.2 The congestion-free waterways also promise faster transit compared to congested roads.
Abraham Varghese, Managing Director, Kottayam Port, said the MoU envisages development works at the port with an investment of ₹35 crore, which includes procuring cranes, setting up modern berths and a new barge at a cost of ₹3.4 crore.
The barge in use currently has undergone an overhaul and is awaiting clearances from authorities before restarting service.
Kottayam Port currently handles 200-250 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of export-import cargo a month and the volume of export cargo has registered a monthly growth of 20 per cent. The cargo currently includes wheat, rubber products, spices, clinker, cement, machinery and newsprint, among others.
“We have already moved around 200 containers of wheat, shipped from Gujarat, and are expecting a significant increase in this cargo in the near term,” Varghese said.
According to M Beena, Chairperson, Cochin Port Trust, the port handles 60,000 TEUs of gateway cargo on an average every month. This means some 2,000 trailers move in and out of Cochin Port daily. This traffic is increasing by about 10 per cent every year. Since the roads are congested, the movement through waterway and coastal shipping will cut transit time, Beena said.
To promote cargo movement through waterway, the port has waived the berth hire charges for the barge for the first six months from commencement of the service.
A cargo owner in Kochi, however, said both Kottayam Port and the ICTT operator should waive loading and unloading charges to make coastal movement viable. Such charges are not applicable to trucks.
Since Kochi is at the centre of Kerala, the distribution of goods to other parts can be handled through the non-major ports using the hub-and-spoke model. The container transhipment terminal can be the hub and the non-major ports connected to it would be like the spokes of a wheel.