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Thiruvananthapuram, Jan. 24

THE first phase of the proposed Vizhinjam international container transhipment terminal project will go on stream in 2010.

The project, envisaged at a total cost of Rs 4,360 crore, is slated to be completed in three phases. The first phase, estimated to cost Rs 1,850 crore, is designed to handle containers of the order of 1.1 million TEUs a year, the Minister of Ports, Mr M.V. Raghavan, said here on Tuesday.

It may be recalled that the State Cabinet had approved the tender submitted by a consortium, comprising two Chinese companies - Kaidi Electric Power Company and China Harbour Engineering Company - and the Mumbai-based Zoom Developers, for taking up the development of the project on build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis.

The Minister said the BOT agreement would be for a period of 30 years after which the terminal would be fully under the control of the State Government. The BOT period would start from the date of commissioning of the first phase.

The second and third phases of expansion would cost Rs 990 crore and Rs 1,520 crore, respectively. When fully commissioned, the terminal will have a capacity to handle containers to the tune of 4.1 million TEUs a year.

Mr Raghavan said the international shipping route is just 10 nautical miles away from Vizhinjam. Besides, the site has a natural draught of more than 20 metres, which will enable the next-generation "mega container" vessels to make use of the terminal.

In the initial phase, the terminal will have the capacity to handle container vessels of 8,000 TEUs. In the subsequent phases, the capacity of the terminal will be augmented to handle vessels of 10,000-12,000 TEUs.

The Minister said the Government would spend Rs 80 crore for creating basic infrastructure such as road, rail, water supply and electricity. The project as such does not require any land acquisition, nor will it affect the existing fishing harbour or the fishing activities in the region.

The creation of a special economic zone and logistics corridors has also been planned as part of the development of the container terminal. Apart from container transhipment, the terminal will able to handle cargo ships as also huge luxury vessels.

Mr Raghavan noted that the Vizhinjam and Vallarpadam container terminals in Kochi, when materialised, would help accelerate the economic development of the country.

As of now, as much as 70 per cent of the country's container transhipment requirements are met by Colombo, Singapore, Dubai and Al Salah ports, resulting in a loss of around Rs 1,000 crore on account of higher import costs.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 25, 2006)
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