It took nearly 12 years for Jude Vallabadas, CEO, Projects, Global Logistics Solution India Pvt, to realise his dream of starting a short-haul container feeder services between Chennai and the Union Territory of Puducherry. His dream was fulfilled on Monday with the flagging off the service from the DP World Container Terminal inside the Chennai port to Puducherry port under the Centre’s Sagarmala Programme.
“When I was working for Puducherry port more than a decade back, I had planned to start the service. However, there were many hurdles, including lack of depth at Puducherry port,” he told newspersons at the flagging off the service. The Sagarmala Programme envisages connecting a Non-Major Port (Puducherry) with a Major port (Chennai) through the coastal service, he added.
MoU signed in 2017
In its first voyage, the ship will sail with empty containers that would be made available for the trade at Puducherry, he said.
Similarly, it took nearly six years for the service to materialise after a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Chennai Port and Puducherry Port on March 15, 2017. The commercial cargo handling operations could not commence due to frequent siltation at the mouth of the Puducherry port and presence of many fishing boats, said Sunil Paliwal, Chairman, Chennai Port Authority. The Puducherry port sought the help of Chennai Port Authority to sort out various issues, including siltation.
Nearly ₹40 crore was spent at the Puducherry port on infrastructure and issues related to siltation, said a port official.
Under the Sagarmala programme, the plan is to develop Puducherry port as a satellite port to Chennai port for container cargo from and to the Union Territory and its hinterland extending to Cuddalore and Nagapattinam in the South East; Tiruchi and Villupuram in the South and Salem and Namakkal in the West, Paliwal said. This could be a trial for the passenger ferry service between the two destinations, and even further down south, he added.
Twice a week service
Vallabadas said the service will be twice a week. Every month nearly 5,000 twenty foot equivalent units (TEUs) - both import and export - are handled at the Chennai port for companies in the industrial clusters located in and around Puducherry. All these containers are moved by road. The company plans to handle around 1,200 TEUs a month (both ways) through the coastal route, he added.
The self geared feeder ship - Hope Seven - to be used in the service has a capacity to carry 106 TEUs, including 20 reefer socket slots. It will take nearly 12 hours between the two destinations, he said.
The Puducherry port is Customs ICEGATE enabled with quick import and export clearance facility. The port warehouse has container stuffing and de-stuffing provisions. A company can do all the Custom-related formalities at the Puducherry port; load the box in to the ship to Chennai where a bigger feeder vessel will carry it to the transshipment port of Colombo or Singapore to connect Mother ship for onward journey to the US or Europe, he said.
Vallabadas urged the Mainline vessel operators to nominate the Puducherry port as a container yard to enable availability of empty containers for the trade. The port has a capacity to store around 2,000 TEUs, he said.