KOCHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today dedicated to the nation the first phase of the Rs 6,250 crore International Container Transshipment Terminal at nearby Vallarpadam island that would help exporters access mainline container vessels calling at the port.
Describing the project as a 'long awaited milestone' in the development of the country's logistics infrastructure, Singh said "it is a symbol of how public-private partnership can contribute to public good."
Singh, who had laid the foundation stone for the project in February 2005, said "I am delighted to see how well this state-of-art terminal has come up."
The absence of a global hub port and the lack of transhipment facilities had put the country's trade at a disadvantage, he said.
Noting that about 60 per cent of India's export and import containers were transhipped through outside ports like Singapore and Colombo, he said it cost an additional expenditure of USD 300 per container and an extra 7-10 days of transit time.
With the new facility located at the Special Economic Zone at Vallarpadam island, Indian exporters can now access mainline container vessels calling at one of the most well located ports of India.
The construction of the terminal is the centre piece of a comprehensive plan to develop Kochi as an economic and logistical hub of the region, the Prime Minister said.
The project area has been declared SEZ with a road link to connect Vallarpadam with two national highways, besides a 8.5 km rail link connecting the terminal to the railway network.
The navigation channels were being deepened which was a challenging task involving the removal of nearly 26 million cubic metres of soil, Singh said.
Stressing the need to vastly increase the use of fuel efficient, environment friendly and safe modes of transport such as inland waterways, Singh said this mode of transportation was very suitable for bulk, containerised and hazardous cargo as is the case world wide.
Singh said the project symbolised the "keen interest" of the United Arab Emirates in investing in India and in promoting stronger business and people-to-people ties between the two countries.
The terminal would be an 'enduring symbol' of the close ties India wishes to build with its extended neighbours in West Asia, including the UAE, he said.
Singh said Kerala with its huge diaspora of skilled and enterprising workers, engineers, doctors and other professionals was ideally suited to become the harbinger for these investments, he said.
The first phase of the project, costing over Rs 3200 crore is ready to handle one million TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) per annum. When completed, the terminal will be able to handle four million TEUs per annum.
The project will be operated by Dubai Port World (DPW), and has been set up to make Kochi a key centre in the shipping world, reducing India's dependence on foreign ports to handle transshipment, Cochin Port sources said.
Praising the state, the Prime Minister said Kerala is well known not only for its visual beauty, but also for the talent and industry of its people. Kerala already leads the country in many important social indicators of development.
"There is no reason why the rich human potential, geographical location and resources cannot be exploited to build Kerala into a front ranking industrial state of the country," he said adding the state should become a model for other states to emulate and follow.
Referring to Kochi, Singh said he visualised in the future, the emergence of several port based service industries and processing centres in its proximity that will take advantage of the reliable and economical logistics to be provided by the terminal.
The Prime Minister said he was pleased that a modern LNG Import and Regasification facility was also being constructed in the Cochin Port Trust area which is expected to be operational by March 2012.
In his welcome address, Union Shipping minister, G K Vasan, said India was witnessing rapid economic growth.
In the last two years, the shipping ministry has awarded 22 PPP projects at an estimated investment of rs 9000 crore and another 22 projects are under bidding process.
In the shipping sector, for the first time Indian tonnage touched 10 million Gross Tonnage mark in October 2010, he said.
Kerala chief minister, V S Achutanandan, said the central government should take efforts to provide jobs to at least one member of families whose land had been acquired for the project.
Though the state government had completed the land a acquisition process for the Palakkad Coach factory, the Railways was neglecting the project and urged Prime minister to intervene. Since Kochi was fast emerging as a major metro, the Kochi Metro project should be cleared as early as possible, he said.
Union ministers-- A K Antony, Mullapally Ramachandran, E Ahamed, K V Thomas, K C Venugopal were among those present.
When fully ready, the terminal will be able to handle 4 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of cargo per annum. The first phase of the project is ready to handle one million TEUs per annum.
The Terminal will be operated by Dubai Port World (DPW).
The ICTT project was taken up considering the rapid growth of container traffic in India. Due to lack of transshipment facilities in Indian ports, a substantial quantity of container traffic is transshipped through foreign transshipment terminals such as Colombo, Salalah, Dubai and Singapore, resulting in additional costs and delays ranging from seven to 10 days.
The ICTT will provide facilities for handling mother ships and thereby obviate the need for transshipment of Indian containers through other countries.
Meanwhile, Lal Bahadur Shastri (LBS). a vessel of the Shipping Corporation of India, will be the first vessel to official touch at port. OEL Dubai, a Panama flagged vessel, with 500 containers has also arrived at the port.