THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Shashi Tharoor, MP, has petitioned Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) against the discontinuation of crew change facility at the Vizhinjam seaport. The seaport has successfully carried out over a thousand crew changes so far, which has not only been beneficial to transcontinental shipping companies operating ships through nearby routes but has also stimulated the local economy by creating additional jobs and by way of supporting the state's travel, tourism and hospitality sectors.
The proven track record of the seaport has the potential to be further expanded in the light of challenges faced by the port in Colombo on account of the economic situation in Sri Lanka. Further, many of the ships that dock at Vizhinjam are unable to do so elsewhere, given the low draft conditions in many of India's existing ports. In spite of these numerous advantages, the DGS' order, on the apparent grounds of enforcing Covid restrictions, has effectively nullified the inherent potential of the port to provide considerable economic benefits.
As the pandemic situation has improved, permission for crew change should be reinstated. Crew change was carried out in Vizhinjam seaport for the first time on July 15, 2020. Containers, ships and gas tankers were involved in the process. In the first year almost 150 vessels arrived at the port for crew change. In all, 2,400 crew signed off and signed in.
Through crew change the port earned revenue by way of port dues, outer anchorage, channel fee, vehicle entry and tug hire charges. The state government had strongly opposed the move to stop crew changing. The maritime board too had written to the DGS to continue the facility.