The Cochin Port Trust (CPT) has decided to revive its ambitious Outer Harbour project in the Puthuvypu-Fort Kochi region. The project is getting ready for mandatory approval and has a cost estimate of Rs 4000 crore. Once this project is cleared, CPT plans to push forward with a more ambitious petro-chemical complex with a cost outlay of Rs 40,000 crore.
By mid-December, CPT will invite an Expression of Interest (EoI) for the construction of the twin breakwaters needed for the harbour, CPT chairman Paul Antony said. A study report on the outer harbour too was under preparation, he said. The breakwaters - one on the Fort Kochi side and the other at Puthuvypu - are also expected to reduce silting at the Kochi port channels by 40 per cent.
Studies by IIT-Chennai and the Central Water and Power Research Station, Pune, have revealed that intensity of sea erosion on the Kochi coast can be reduced by constructing the breakwaters. “With the construction of two breakwaters, around 2,600 acres of land can be developed at the Puthuvypu area and 650 acres at Fort Kochi. The breakwater near Fort Kochi will be connected with a bridge to the mainland,” Paul said.
“Such an outer harbour is essential for the development of Kerala. Rotterdam in the Netherlands is one of the ports that has such an outer harbour,” Jose Paul, professor, Indian Maritime University, and former chairman, Goa Port Trust, said.
However, going ahead with a project like the outer harbour could steal the focus from important projects like getting the Vallarpadam ICTT established and constructing an international seaport at Vizhinjam, said D Rajasenan, professor, Economics, Cochin University of Science and Technology. Nevertheless, export-oriented refineries in coastal areas have been a big success in the country. As Cochin Port has close proximity to 90 channels from Suez to the Far East, crude oil can be brought here and refined for export. The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) status for this land can be acquired easily as it is attached to Puthuvypu, which already has this status. The cost of setting up the refinery will also come down by 10 per cent when it has the SEZ status.
According to Paul, the CPT already has the expertise in controlling the traffic and the outer harbour would be a great success. As per the plans, the breakwaters will be extended to six km into the sea.
The annual silting in Cochin Port is 21 million cubic metres and with the construction of breakwaters the cost of annual dredging can be reduced.