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Last ten years of neglect of Chennai Port has taken a heavy toll

(Continued from the previous issue)

Sagar Sandesh: An owner of a container terminal was quoted recently as saying that India needs more cargo and better connectivity to the port instead of building new ports and terminals. Your comments.

S.Narasimhan:  what he is saying is true. He must have talked about containerization of cargo. Most of the goods trS.Nported in India come under the bulk cargo category. Containerization of bulk cargo and conversion of bulk cargo to containers will bring down the trS.Nportation costs, bring down the wastage of goods and improve their quality of goods trS.Nported.

More than building a green field port, creating connectivity to hinterland from the existing ports is very important. That is why, it is very important to build more Inland Container Depots deep in the hinterland rather than container freight stations near the ports.

Inland Container Depot (For illustration only)

The Shipping Ministry has rightly decided that there will no more fresh licenses for container freight stations near Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Bengaluru, Mundra and JNPT ports. It has also made it clear that it is open to giving more licenses for inland container depots.

The ICDs are themselves Customs stations, situated in the hinterland of ports and therefore provides better facilities to the trade. More ICDs are coming up near Bengaluru, Salem, Madurai and Coimbatore in Southern India

SS:  Krishnapatnam Port has made a big success in trS.Nshipment of cargo in the last few months. The Port was able to take away Indian cargo which was otherwise moving through Singapore ports. Chennai port intends to start trS.Nshipment business. How do you see this trend?

S.N: While Vizhinjam and Vallarpadam Ports situated near the international shipping lane could emerge as trS.Nshipment hubs, Chennai and Krishnapatnam ports are not meant to do trS.Nshipment business.

SS: Not long ago Chennai port was the only facility for entire Southern India, Now three ports in the vicinity are competing with Chennai from the same hinterland. How does the competition from private ports impact the prospect of Chennai Port.? Chennai port is already feeling the pinch with many main line vessels skipping the port. There are some Chennai based shipping agents who assert that the port might fold up. How do you see the future of Chennai Port?                                                                                  

S.N: The neglect of road connectivity to Chennai Port by successive governments has taken a heavy toll on its prospects. The issue was never addressed by them. Had the infrastructure like the Ennore- Manali Road Improvement Program (EMRIP) a six lane high way linking Chennai and Ennore ports with two lanes exclusively for port bound containers, had been taken up ten years earlier, Chennai would have been way ahead of ports in the West Coast.

Major shipping lines started skipping Chennai port once they found delivery of cargo from the port took 48 to 72 hours. Last ten years of neglect of Chennai Port has taken a heavy toll. The entire south India is feeling the pinch of getting new industries in the absence of a robust port like Chennai. If the port was working to normal capacity Tamil Nadu would have been leading the table in industries in the country. Other southern states would have also picked up. Primarily the road connectivity to the port was neglected. This took a heavy toll on the Port.

SS: How is the situation in the Chennai Port now?

S.N: Things have improved a lot during the last two years. During the peak congestion days it took nearly 48 to 72 hours to clear cargo from the Chennai Port. Now the time taken for delivery or receipt of cargo has come down to eight hours. The Elevated Corridor project to Maduravoyal is about to resume in a few months. Customers are finding it easy to handle containers in Chennai port as the delivery time has come down to eight hours.

File photo of the Chennai Port to Maduravoyal Elevated Four-Lane Corridor Project

Chennai Port will soon emerge as Ultra Modern Container Port. The present Port Chairman Raveendran, who belongs to the Railway Service is taking measures to improve the Rail connectivity to the port.

The implementation of Visakhapatnam Chennai Industrial Corridor, which is now at the final stages of project structuring, will play a major role in development of industries in the East coast Cargo feeding for the ports will not be a problem any longer.

The proposal to extend the Corridor from Chennai to Kanyakumari, however has not made much progress so far.

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