THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The political unrest in Maldives is also drawing attention to the untapped potential of the small port at Vizhinjam which is continuing trade relations with the island nation unhindered.
Business is as usual for perishable cargo-laden vessels bound for Maldives, where a political upheaval is underway, according to shipping agencies. But delay in obtaining export benefits is scuttling the small port’s chances of milking the immense trading potential with the island nation, sources in the State Ports Department said.
Local issues at Vizhinjam have put a brake on infrastructure development at the port mandated by the Handling of Cargo in Customs Areas Regulations-2009 which is required to obtain the benefits. Port officials say 80-85 per cent of the works are over, but the construction of a gate on the boundary wall has raked up a controversy.
Although a minister-level meeting was held, the issue has not been resolved. The Ship and Port Facility Code (ISPS Code) also requires a boundary wall to ensure security. ‘’We had entrusted the Harbour Engineering Department with the construction, but the dispute is yet to be settled. The other works are nearly over,’’ Ports director Jacob Thomas said.
Tuticorin Port accounts for much of the sea trade with Maldives today, and Vizhinjam is being pushed down to second place. The wharves at Vizhinjam also leave much to be desired, Port sources said.
Finesse Shipping Line Ltd, which has been shipping perishable cargo to Maldives from Vizhinjam since 1995, said the current unrest in the archipelago has not affected its operations. ‘’On one day, we faced a problem as banks in Male (the capital) remained closed. Even then, we did not face any issue unloading the cargo,’’ said Sajjad Sheikh, director of the shipping line.
Today, Finesse plies three vessels from Tuticorin and two from Vizhinjam. A major reason for trade continuing unhampered is that the island nation is hugely dependent on imports for survival.
State port officials also said that so far the political unrest in the island nation has not hit shipments from Vizhinjam.
‘’Shipments from Vizhinjam have not experienced any difficulties so far,’’ Jacob Thomas said.