Bangalore: India’s first international container trans-shipment terminal (ICTT) at Vallarpadam in Kochi, designed to handle the largest container ships, will be opened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday with a token inaugural call by a vessel that’s small by industry standards.
Lal Bahadur Shastri, a container ship owned by Shipping Corp. of India Ltd with a capacity to load 1,869 standard containers, will dock at ICTT Vallarpadam on Friday to load containers before going to Colombo and onward to Jebel Ali on the SCI Middle East India Liner Express Service, or Smile service, run by the state-owned carrier. This ship requires a draft of just 9-10m to dock.
ICTT Vallarpadam is not yet ready to receive the biggest container ships with a capacity to load 12,500 standard containers and requiring a depth of 14.5m to dock.
J.N. Das, Shipping Corp.’s director for liner and passenger services, confirmed the inaugural call by Lal Bahadur Shastri. The ICTT is being developed by a consortium led by DP World Pvt. Ltd, which holds about 82% of the venture. The balance is held by local partners such as Container Corp. of India Ltd, Chakiat Agencies Pvt. Ltd and Transworld Group.
Union government-owned Kochi port was contractually bound to provide a depth of 14.5m to DP World Pvt. Ltd to help the Dubai-based firm bring bigger ships and cut India’s dependence on transshipment hubs such as Colombo, Singapore and Salalah to send and receive cargo.
The Rs.550 crore channel-deepening work, funded entirely by the government, was supposed to be completed by 31 October 2010. When the full depth of 14.5m will be achieved is not known.
“At the time of inauguration, a depth of 14.5 metres will be available at 400-450 metres of the (600 metre-wide) berth,” said Jijo Thomas, spokesperson for Kochi port. “We are commissioning the ICTT at this stage and continue the dredging work till the required depth is created at the balance part of the berth.”
“It’s just symbolic,” said P. Narayanan, a director at Chakiat Agencies, which holds close to 3% in the venture. “The size of the ship has no meaning for the inaugural function being held on Friday.”
DP World, the world’s fourth biggest container port operator majority owned by the Dubai government, won the 30-year contract to build and operate the ICTT in a public auction in 2004.
A container trans-shipment terminal acts like a hub into which smaller feeder vessels bring in cargo which then gets loaded on to larger ships and are taken to final destinations.