Monday, August 28, 2006

Colachel, Vizhinjam port projects caught in high seas

Two port projects, at a distance of just 40 km on the West Coast. The project sites are very close and the maritime, topographical and environmental features are more or less similar. But there's a hitch-- they are in two different states, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Had this not been the case, the country’s shipping and international trade story would have been quite different. The mother vessels that anchor at Colombo, Singapore or Kalang for Indian cargo from feeder vessels wouldn't have been there, saving enormous amount of money and time for Indian manufacturing and business. Yes, what is being referred to is the Vizhinjam port project in Kerala and Colachel in Tamil Nadu.

While the Kerala government has finalised the project plan at an estimated investment of Rs 4,360 crore, and has received global bids, it is facing hurdles in the name of national security. An all-party delegation from Kerala is set to meet the Prime Minister on August 31, to seek his intervention.

The apprehension in Kerala is that TN ministers in the Union Cabinet are creating obstacles for the Vizhinjam port to get the Colachel project going.

TN wants to develop Colachel into an international hub. The state has taken up the matter with the Centre on the need to develop Colachel as a container transshipment hub. and is seeking assistance in preparing a detailed feasibility/project report, minister for highways, Vellakovil MP Saminathan, has said.

However, experts on maritime affairs say Vizhinjam has certain distinctive advantages over Colachel. The natural draft is 17 to 20 meters within 500 meters to one km from the shore. The sandy bottom makes dredging and deepening for construction easier, and the current velocity and tide levels are in acceptable range.

At Colachel, they say, the natural draft of 15 meters is found only one km from the shore and 20 meter draft is available only four-five km away. The sea bottom at Colachel is rocky requiring substantial amount of blasting for dredging or deepening, impacting marine ecology.

A hub port on the West Coast, close to the international sea route, is essential for India’s industrial and economic development.

Both Colachel and Vizhinjam can serve this purpose, may be with a variance in cost. Hence, from a national perspective, experts feel that instead of competing with each other, TN and Kerala should co-operate and jointly develop India’s star port.


At 2:43 AM, Blogger selvaraj said...

Where the Port will come up will depend on the perception of the pvt invester regarding the LABOUR relatins in TN and KERALA than any other issues.This is more so considering frequent labour unrest in VALLARPADAM Port Terminal



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