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Container handling at Chennai ports at cross roads

Expansion of capacity in the existing container terminals in the Chennai port is more or less ruled out because of the structural limitations in increasing the draft of the terminals.

The draft could be increased to 15 meters at best.

The average draft in the two terminals run by the DP World and PSA Singapore is currently around 14 meters. The draft could be increased to 15 meters at best. Beyond that it is not possible due to structural limitations, according to a Port Official.

The official said the Port administration is therefore toying with the idea of expanding the container terminal at the nearby Kamarajar port Ennore which is owned by the Chennai port.

The expansion project is still at a preliminary stage.

The lone container terminal at Kamarajar port taken on lease by the Adani group has not done well during the last four years. Adanis own the Katupalli port which is situated adjacent to Kamarajar port. Trade sources said the Adani group is concentrating on container traffic from its own port. Hence container handling has not picked at the Kamarajar port.

Evacuation issues affected terminals in Chennai Port

Chennai Port had pioneered container handling having started the facility way back in 1980 when JNPT and Mundra Ports, the current leaders in container handling, did not exist. But the terminals in Chennai Port suffered a setback due to evacuation issues leading to congestion.

The Ennore Manali Road improvement program EMRIP project to provide dedicated lanes from the terminals to Kolkata high way took nearly 15 years to complete due to issues created by fishermen of Cassimode. The ambitious Maduravoyal corridor project took off in 2009 but got stuck in 2011 and yet to get resumed due to bureaucratic red tape. Union Highways ministry is sitting on the project for the last few months.

Consequently the four container terminals in the Chennai region handle around 2.5 million TEUs on an average per year as against over five million TEUs in Mundra Port alone in Gujarat. Gujarat also has a string of private ports which are also doing well in container traffic.

The turnover of the five container terminals in JNPT in Maharashtra is also in the range of over five million TEUs. Both the ports have excellent port infrastructure and world class rail connectivity. The railways have spent nearly rs two lakh crores in the last five years to construct to the western dedicated freight corridors which connect both these ports to the North Indian hinterland, the main consuming market and an emerging manufacturing base.
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