V O Chidambaranar port trust in Tuticorin is one of the country’s major ports under the Ministry of Shipping and has concluded fiscal-ended March 31, 2012, handling 28.10 million tonnes and fixed an internal target to handle 30 million tonnes next fiscal. In order to achieve our target, the port is implementing several Projects to augment the present capacity of 27.04 million tonnes to 61.78 million tonnes says A Subbiah, chairman of the VO Chidambaranar Port Trust. Edited excerpts
What is the target for the next fiscal and what kind of expansion plans does the port trust have?
The port handled 28.10 million tonnes last fiscal and fixed internal target to handle 30 million tonnes during the current fiscal.
In order to achieve the target, the port is implementing several projects to augment capacity of 27.04 million tonnes to 61.78 million tonnes including conversion of the 8th berth as a container terminal, construction of north cargo berth-I, development of north cargo berth-II, development of two shallow draft berths, one each for handling construction material and cement, and upgrade of mechanical handling infrastructure. The port has proposed to implement the project on Development North Cargo Berth-III, North Cargo Berth-IV and development of a barge jetty exclusively for anchorage cargoes.
On completion of the projects, the inner harbor optimisation would be complete and thereafter the port has plans to develop outer harbor which would feature eight berths. The capacity addition on the outer harbor would be around 44 million tonnes, paving the way for the port to reach a capacity of approximately 100 million capacity by 2020.
Progress on Tuticorin Port’s projects under the Maritime Agenda 2020 of the Ministry of Shipping for the port sector?
According to the agenda, cargo traffic at the port is projected to grow at 10 per cent CAGR upto 2020. As of now its growing at a CAGR of 8.7 per cent for 2010-12. The agenda projects augmentation of the capacity of 75.12 million tonnes by 2019-20.
It is felt the projections of Maritime Agenda 2010-20 are realistic and shall be implemented as planned.
The hub port status for V O Chidambaranar Port has been pending for a long time.
Hub-port refers to a port wherein the port receives international transshipment cargo other than the cargo for the country as a hub-and-spoke model. The Tuticorin Chapter of the Confederation of Indian Industry, South Zone, The All India Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tuticorin and other trade and industrial development bodies have been demanding a hub-port status for V O Chidambaranar Port.
To receive international transshipment cargo, it is imperative that the port should be located on a strategic location with good infrastructure facilities at water front and land area, have state-of-the-art cargo handling equipment and offer the best service in terms of productivity and efficiency. In order to get the hub port status, the port has completed the capital dredging project to improve the draft at the port to cater to vessels of 12.80 metres in the inner harbour. A modern ERP system is under implementation. The port has a vision for future development of outer harbour with a draft of 14.80 metres and connected infrastructure and superstructure. On completion of the projects, I observe that the port can desire and deserves the status of hub port.
What kind of capital dredging projects have been carried out ?
Tuticorin Port has always had a problem of draught and had a draft of 10.70 metres in the channel and some of the berths in the basin in the inner harbour. This was found to be inadequate for a growing port like V O Chidambaranar Port. The lack of a draft was found to be a critical constraint for future development since the trend is towards bigger vessels to reap economies of scale. This limiting factor was addressed by the capital dredging project with the support of the Ministry of Shipping at an outlay of Rs 538 crore.
The channel, the turning basin and the areas before the berth No 8, berth No 9, north cargo berth-I, coal jetty I, coal jetty-II, oil jetty and part of berth no. 7 have been dredged to a depth of 14.1m to handle Panamax vessels of 12.80 m draft. Due to this, the port added 7.5 million tonnes additional capacity. The dredged material has been effectively dumped to reclaim a land mass of around 103 acres within the port area with the market value of Rs 400 crore which would be effectively used for future development.
How is the container traffic picking up at the port?
V O Chidambaranar Port is the third largest Container Handling Port in the country, having handled about 470,000 TEUs last fiscal. The port is all set to handle 500,000 TEUs this year. Since the container traffic is likely improve in the country as a whole, we have proactively planned to convert the berth No.8 into a container terminal with an additional handling capacity of 600,000 TEUs. On completion of the project, the port will have a capacity to handle 1 million TEUs.
The port is also planning a dedicated container expressway, container truck parking terminal and CFS at an estimated cost of Rs 150 crore. It is also implementing an ERP e-sail project for ensuring paperless flow through gate along with other components of the port’s activity. A six-lane new gate complex is also under tendering for ensuring smooth flow of cargo and containers.
Considering V O Chidambaranar Port is a major port for coal traffic, what are your plans?
Tuticorin is poised to become a power hub in the state and the country, as per the indication of power plants with the envisaged capacity of around 18,000 Mw is likely to be set up in and around Tuticorin.
Apart from the existing 1,050 Mw power station of the Tangenco presently functioning in the port area, the 1,000 Mw NTPL Power project is coming up. In addition to the above on the outskirts of Tuticorin, the projects of independent merchant power producers are coming up fast. The two projects require an additional quantity of about 20 million tonnes of thermal coal for which the construction of North Cargo Berth is on in full swing. The North Cargo berth-II is under implementation. Upon commissioning of these projects, the port would be handling about 20 million tones of thermal coal for the entire coal needs of the thermal power plant.
The developments in the inner harbor, development of Hare island and the developments in the area reclaimed through dredging, planned rail connectivity for evacuation are some of the projects in the pipeline to meet future demand for thermal coal for the various power stations coming up in the Tuticorin area.
Any plans to resume Tuticorin-Colombo Ferry service?
The Passenger Ferry Service was launched by the operator between Tuticorin and Colombo in June, with the ship’s capacity of about 1044 passengers. Inspite of providing dedicated berthing facility and full-fledged Passenger Terminal with all amenities by the V O Chidambaranar Port, the operator has not operated from November 2011 till date citing technical reasons.
To resume the service, Ministry of Shipping and the Port have formed Operational Sub-committee to sort out the issues for early resumption of ferry service