Logistics

Defence Ministry asks Kochi port to scan all containers at Vallarpadam

V. Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on November 05, 2012

A view of the Vallarpadam International Container Transhipment Terminal, in Kochi (file photo).

Cites security reasons; port takes up matter with Shipping Ministry





The Defence Ministry has asked Kochi Port to scan all containers passing through the Vallarpadam Terminal. The ministry has, in a letter, cited security reasons for the move.

Senior port officials confirmed the development. They said the additional security layer will kick in after the initial screening of containers by the Customs Department.

The move will, however, be time consuming, and delay movement of cargo, the officials said.

No transhipment terminal in the world follows a system of scanning each container . Even the US and the European Union, which follow strict security measures, have not put in place such a security layer, the officials said.

The port, on its part, has taken up the issue with the Shipping Ministry, they said.

If the Defence Ministry sticks to its decision, the shipping fraternity exporters may be forced to depend on other transhipment terminals nearby, said a shipping industry source. Vallarpadam competes with other transhipment hubs such as Colombo and Singapore.

The terminal now handles 800 containers a day. This is expected to go up to 2,000 containers once a notification relaxing the Cabotage Law is issued. Port officials said scanning all the containers that pass through it will hurt productivity, and the turnaround time of vessels and container trailers. This will increase transaction costs due to the delay in shipment.

Objections

P. Narayan, President, Cochin Chamber of Commerce and Industry, pointed out that the Defence Ministry had not insisted on 100 per cent scanning when the Cabotage law was relaxed for the Nhava Sheva port earlier.

So, there is no rationale in asking the Kochi port to do so, since containers for export (and those imported into the country) will continue to flow in through other ports sans any screening , he said.

The cargo that is expected to be transhipped at Kochi is cargo that originates or is destined to or from other Indian ports. In respect of export cargo from other Indian Ports, these have been permitted to be shipped after due inspection, he said.

Similarly, in respect of import cargo to other Indian ports, these will be allowed in only after due inspection and payment of import duty to the Government.

This being the case, the chamber fails to understand how there could be any security lapse issue in respect of these cargoes. Narayan said the Defence Ministry has imposed these conditions without due review of the process. .

>sajeevkumar.v@thehindu.co.in

Published on November 05, 2012

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