VIZHINJAM:The pillar, about 12 feet high, stands forgotten in a weed-infested corner of Vizhinjam Fisheries Station grounds. Great effort is needed to make out the faded lettering at the bottom. “Vizhinjam Harbour Project, Inaugurated by Shri S K Patil, Minister for Food and Agriculture, Government of India, on 12th September 1962.”
When Chief Minister Oommen Chandy lays the foundation stone for the `7,525 crore Vizhinjam international container transshipment terminal project on Saturday at Mukkola, just south of Vizhinjam, it will be good to remember this pillar, unveiled more than half a century ago. It stands testimony to the efforts taken at different points of time to have a port built here.
Today, the thriving fisheries harbour and a minor port, from where there is weekly cargo services to Maldives, sits just west of the Fisheries Station. An even older attempt to have a port built at Vizhinjam was the one made by Sir C P Ramaswamy Iyer, the Dewan of Travancore, in the 1940s. He wanted to build a port at Vizhinjam and link it to Vellayani Lake by constructing a canal. But the proposal met with opposition as Vellayani was a fresh-water lake and linking it with the sea would have proven disastrous.
In 2010, then Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan laid a foundation stone, which reads ‘Inauguration of the 1st Phase and Foundation Stone Laying for Road Connectivity to the Port.’ That was on August 16, 2010. This stone has disappeared. Anyhow, attempts made by the LDF government to land a private partner failed, forcing it to float fresh global tenders.
Over the decades, the concept of ‘Vizhinjam Port’ underwent massive transformation. The port that is to be constructed by Adani Group will be so massive that it can handle ships having a capacity of 18,000 TEU (Twenty-foot equivalent unit or the size of a normal container).