Cochin port is becoming a major cement handling hub.
Three years ago, Ambuja Cements started its facility here. Now, three other major companies are following suit. Ultra Tech Cement will commence operations this December, while Zuari Cement had acquired land and is expected to start operations in three years, said a senior port official.
The Cochin Port Trust (CPT) has leased one hectare to Ultra Tech and 2.4 hectare to Zuari in the BP terminal and the Ernakulam wharf respectively.
Meanwhile, state-owned Malabar Cements too has expressed interest in commencing a facility and had sought three hectares to handle one million tonne cement a year. The port is now looking for a suitable land for the company near the Mattanhery wharf.
During FY 2011-12, Ambuja Cements imported 350,000 tonne cement from its plants in India and distributed throughout the southern states. The handling facility directly pumps the cement from the vessel to the stockyard at the terminal and is packed and distributed.
The demand for the commodity across south India, especially in Kerala, was rising at a faster pace, said a cement company source. Hence, it was “economical” to have a handling facility at Cochin port.
Moreover, sea-based cement movement would also reduce the transportation cost and avoid the time lag in delivery. The companies also plan to export cement through the port to countries like Sri Lanka, he said.
The port has decided to get an assurance from the companies to have a minimum guaranteed throughput through each handling facility. Each company should handle at least 300,000 tonne per year. Ultra Tech and Zuari will handle 300,000 tonne initially, and later increase the capacity.
Currently, about 1,000 ships visit Cochin port annually and this may double in three years on the back of various development projects such as the International Container Transshipment Terminal, LNG terminal, LPG terminal and bulk cargo terminals.
According to a report submitted by the port to the Union government, the cargo traffic here would increase from 20 million tonne in 2011 to 51 million tonne in 2017.
International ship repair facility
There was good response to the global tender for the development and operation of an international ship repair facility on Willingdon Island with private sector participation.
The ship repair facility is to be positioned as a ‘modern ship repair yard of international standard' for maintenance, repair and overhaul of small and medium-size vessels. Shipbuilding will also be permitted here.
Based on a detailed project report prepared by Kerala Industrial and Technical Consultancy (KITCO), the port has formulated a conceptual plan envisaging leasing out of its underutilised workshop complex including slipway for development and operation of the new facility on a 30-year lease basis.
The port trust had invited expressions of interest for the project in 2011, and seven major players had evinced interest, including Cochin Shipyard and Sultan Marine International.