Shortsea shipping, touted as a great alternative to road freight, is gaining momentum in Kerala. In a short span of time, three minor ports handled a total of 1,152 containers.

Shortsea shipping, touted as a great alternative to road freight, is gaining momentum in Kerala, which has a coastline of 589.5 kms.

Within a short span of three months after the launch of shortsea shipping service, three minor ports — Azhikkal, Beypore and Kollam — handled a total of 1,152 containers, which include export of 590 containers and import of 515 containers through Azhikkal and Beypore ports. Kollam port alone handled 47 containers.

Service operation

The coastal shipping service connecting Kochi with Azhikkal and Beypore was inaugurated by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on July 3, within 100 days of the LDF government retaining power for a second term after the May polls.

The shortsea shipping service connecting various ports is being operated by Round The Coast, promoted by Mumbai-based logistics conglomerate JM Baxi and Company. The company has so far operated 15 services, connecting Kochi with Azhikkal and Beypore ports. The imported cargoes handled by the ports mainly include tiles, building materials, food items and plywood.

The shortsea shipping service, which was launched at the initiative of the Kerala Maritime Board, received strong support from all the chamber of commerce and trade bodies connected with shipping in Kerala, particularly the business community from the Malabar region.

Expansion plans

Aimed at promoting shortsea shipping service, the government has taken initiatives to dredge– Azhikkal, Beypore, Kollam and Vizhinjam ports.

At a trade meet to discuss development of shortsea shipping and related industries, Chief Minister Vijayan said that the depth of the non-major ports will be increased to seven metres in the first phase and eleven metres in the second phase.

The existing services, which connect Kochi with Azhikkal, Beypore and Kollam ports, will be expanded to Vizhinjam also. By increasing the depth of the ports, bulk carrier ships from both within the country and abroad and luxury cruise ships can be anchored.

Apart from financial benefits, shortsea shipping will help ease traffic congestion and carbon emission, the Chief Minister said.

The government has been providing incentives to ship operators, exporters and importers using the coastal mode to ship cargo.

Meanwhile, Round The Coast has agreed to share a minimum of 20 per cent from the incentives given by the government with the exporters and importers.

Ahammed Devarkovil, Kerala’s Minister for Ports, said that a plan has already been chalked out to increase operational efficiency of minor ports in the State. Efforts are afoot to shift 30 per cent of the container transport to sea from road in five years. The sea offers huge tourism potential and a tourist service connecting various places in the State with other States will also be launched, he added.

Source : The Hindu Businessline