At a time when the Cochin Port is spending several hundreds of crores on dredging the channels of the Port, ships are eyeing other destinations even after they touch the Kochi coast, simply because they lack enough depth. A vessel has to wait for about six days in the outer area till enough draft is provided in the channel.
The vessel ‘Tor Wind’ carrying potash which reached Kochi on October 9 had to return to the outer area as berthing was impossible because of depth issue.
The vessel had to wait for three days till enough draft was provided along the channel. The three-day wait has reportedly caused an additional financial burden for the shipping company.
This is not the first case. The vessel, WILLENERGY, the first vessel carrying LNG for the Petronet LNG Terminal, also had to wait in the outer channel till it was ready for movement. WILLENEREGY which reached Kochi on August 8 berthed at the terminal only on August 16.
Though the dredging of berth basin is the responsibility of Petronet, the maintenance dredging has to be carried out by the Port Trust.
Another vessel, Top Wing, which reached Kochi on October 8 night with bulk cargo for Binani Zinc was diverted to International Container Transshipment Terminal(ICTT), Vallarpadam, for berthing, as the depth required for the vessel was not available along the Ernakulam channel. The maximum depth available at Ernakulam wharf is 11 metres while the ship’s draft was 12.3 metres.
The cargo was off loaded at Vallarpadam from where it was transported to the Ernakulam wharf on a barge. According to sources, loading and unloading cargo at two places cost around `70 lakh.
“With this, the total cost for handling the vessel in Kochi rose to `90 lakh, which could have been reduced to 30 lakh had there been enough depth in the Ernakulam channel,” they said. According to shipping agents, this can adversely affect the Cochin Port.
“Spending an extra day at a place costs an average amount of USD10,000 for the shipping company. If such incidents are repeated it would destroy the Port, as the business depends on it,” said Prakash Iyer, president of Cochin Steamer Agents Association.
Meanwhile, a key official of Cochin Port Trust said that diverting the vessel to ICTT was a facility offered by the Port to the shipping line. He also said that only 11 metres of draft was maintained in Ernakulam channel, though it was 12.5 metres earlier.
“The vessel was carrying cargo for Binani Zinc. Since we do not have enough draft we provided them an alternative facility. They could have taken their cargo directly to their space from ICTT. We did not ask them to take it to the Ernakulam wharf and off load it there again,” said the official.