KOCHI: After having ceased operations for almost two years owing to technical problems, the coastal shipping service connecting Kochi with Beypore and Azhikkal ports resumed just five months ago. But the service is once again in peril, after facing friction from truck lobbies who feel the water route will threaten their monopoly in inland trade transport, says Kerala Maritime Board (KMB).
Around 1,750 containers are plying on the Kochi-Azhikkal route now. Only one operated towards the Kollam side, says KMB chairman advocate V J Mathew. In total, 24 voyages were held in the last five months, he said.
“Only if the importers and exporters are ready, can we send the vessels. The truck lobby has been threatening them, saying if they opt the sea route once, they will not be provided trucks in future. We are hoping that the condition will improve in the next two months and more importers and exporters would be ready to send their containers through vessels. Though two voyages weekly were planned initially, only one is happening now due to unavailability of containers,” he said.
Vessel Chowledge No. 8 of Round the Coast shipping company is currently handling the containers. The same company’s No.9 vessel is expected to join the fleet next month. Another company, Lots Shipping Group, also wishes to start services here soon. Once the competition increases, more cargo will be sent through the ships.
Eases traffic, reduces cost
If 1,750 containers are transported through sea, many lorries will be taken off the road. The maritime board is also considering Ro-Ro services on the same route. The project is expected to begin at the end of this year. The government is providing incentives to containers to encourage them to take the sea route, which would cost the exporter half of what they would incur via road. The width of the ship track, which is only around three metres, is another concern. So, the current vessels can carry only 100 containers at a time. Mathew alleged that a lot of corruption is happening in the dredging processes as well.