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Maximum distance by Sea and short distance by rail or road gives optimum results for the EXIM Trade: Jeyanth Jason Thomas

(Interview Continued)

Sagar Sandesh: There are reports that a Taiwan vessel operator Wan Hai is planning to start mainline services from Tuticorin. Has it fructified?
Mr. P. Jayanth Jason Thomas: We have been hearing about this proposal since June. The port administration has offered 60 per cent rebate in Vessel Related Charges in an effort to woo the Taiwanese company to operate from here. The company was targeting Chinese cargo. With the closure of the Sterilite copper plant at Tuticorin, probably the Taiwan Line might be having second thought.
SS: What need be done in the short run to tone up the infrastructure of the Tuticorin port?
Mr. P. JJT:  The Inner Harbor Optimization Project should be taken up in a time bound manner. The plan includes widening of the entrance channel to 220 meters, deepening the draft at the turning circle and container berths to fourteen meters.
SS: Cargo from the Far Eastern countries and bound for cities like Hyderabad,  Nagpur and National Capital Region prefer to land at JNPT and Mundra skipping the East coast ports. Steps to be taken to attract them to the East coast ports.
Mr. P. JJT: The ultimate decision of the Shipper on choice of ports depends on the location of the industry. There is a strong industrial belt up to a distance of three hundred to four hundred kilometers from JNPT or Mundra which is absent in the case of East coast ports.
Moreover sea freight is cheaper than rail or road. Maximum distance by Sea and short distance by rail or road gives optimum results for the EXIM Trade. Some of the ports in the west coast fit the bill in this regard.
Some cargo comes to Chennai Port because of the presence of the Automobile belt. Kolkata port should have taken the maximum load off JNPT and Mundra Ports but did not make it because of its inefficiency and draft restrictions and because of being a river port.
SS: Tuticorin port has the worst rail connectivity with a single railway line linking the port from the nearest city Madurai. The track doubling working though sanctioned has not commenced. Ten years ago Railway Ministry sanctioned a Coastal Railway from Chennai to Tuticorin and that too has not taken off. Is the trade pressing the Railway Board for better rail connectivity to a major port like Tuticorin?
Mr. P. JJT: Road connectivity to the port is good. We need rail connectivity to move bulk cargo and the local chamber of Commerce is taking up the issue with the government. The portís hinterland is the Coimbatore, Tirupur, Salem and Karur in Western Tamil Nadu which could be easily reached by road.
We need rail connectivity if we were to expand our hinterland to Bengaluru. Bengaluru being close to Chennai is not likely to come to us. Besides the Tuticorin port has no USP like mainline service to attract cargo from Bengaluru.
The road capacity for the current cargo movement from the port is adequate. But considering the incremental growth in trade over the years, we need a Six lane road from Tuticorin to Coimbatore, Tirupur. Karur and Salem.
We need a six lane road from Tuticorin to Coimbatore, Tirupur. Karur and Salem : JJT

We have a four lane road from Tuticorin to Dindigul which needs to be upgraded to six lane. The Highway between Dindigul to Coimbatore is currently two lane . This needs to be upgraded to four lanes immediately.
Concor had a regular weekly service from Bengaluru to Tuticorin port when the port had mainline services to United States and Europe. The only service was stopped twelve years ago when mainline vessels started skipping the port.
SS: Will the proposed Transhipment terminal at Colachel affect the cargo flow to Tuticorin Port considering the fact the distance between the two ports is hardly eighty kilometers?

Tuticorin port and proposed Colachel share the same hinterland
Mr. P. JJT: The Tuticorin port and the proposed transshipment terminal at Colachel share the same hinterland. Colachel port will attract the same cargo that is currently coming to Tuticorin port. We foresee tough competition between the two ports as and when the Colachel terminal comes into stream.
SS: How do you view the Sethu Ship canal project? Will completion of work in the long pending project be beneficial to Tuticorin port and South Tamil Nadu?
Mr. P. JJT: Tuticorin port receives lot of coastal cargo from Gujarat. The cargo includes cotton and tiles. The early completion of Sethu Ship Canal project will provide good connectivity for coastal cargo from the East coast to the West Coast Ports. The completion of the Sethu Canal project will help the trade to switch over to Coastal shipping rather than banking only on roads in this part of the country.
Coastal shipping can easily compete with the road sector, once the Sethu-Ship canal Project is commissioned, since ship journey from East to West Coast of the country will be reduced by One and half days. Coastal shipping will get a fillip if the Canal project is completed. Transhipment of cargo through East Coast Ports will also increase bringing prosperity to South Tamil Nadu
SS: The Direct Port Delivery of Imports and Direct Port Entry of Exports by bypassing the Container Freight Stations is picking up in major ports during the last one year. How will this play out in the Tuticorin port?
Mr. P. JJT: Though the Direct Port Delivery system has been in vogue for the past one year, hardly one per cent of the importers in Tuticorin Port choose this method of handling.
The customs facilities for Direct Port Entry is yet to be established in the port and our understanding is hardly15 to 20 per cent of the exporters in the region may opt for Direct Port Entry. The main imports of the port including cashew, cotton, scrap and timber need inspections and involvement of various governmental agencies. Neither Direct Port delivery nor direct port entry may take off at Tuticorin port to the extent of other Ports.
There are as many as fifteen container freight stations and one Inland container depot in and around Tuticorin port.

(To be contd...)

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