Two potentially inspiring projects

K G Kumar | Updated on February 13, 2011

The inauguration of Phase I of the Rs 3,200-crore International Container Transhipment Terminal (ICTT) at Vallarpadam, off Kochi, Kerala's industrial and commercial capital, and the dedication to the nation of the spanking new international terminal of the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport in the State's capital last week seem to suggest a sudden flutter of activity for Kerala on the development front.

Both these projects are long-pending dreams for Kerala, and their fruition – even at this nascent, potentially difficult stage – augurs well for the advancement of the State's transportation and logistics infrastructure.

At the inauguration of the ICTT, the country's first container transhipment hub, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, pointed out that at present, about 60 per cent of India's export and import containers are transhipped through the neighbouring ports of Singapore and Colombo, forcing shipping companies to fork out an additional expense of US $300 per container and an extra 7-10 days of transit time.

Thus, if ICTT succeeds and performs competitively, Kochi can soon lay claim to being one of the most attractive ports of call on the international east-west shipping route, breaking the monopoly of Singapore and Colombo.

BOT project

ICTT is a build-operate-transfer (BOT) project between Cochin Port Trust (CPT) and DP World, formed in September 2005 with the integration of the terminal operations of the Dubai Ports Authority (DPA), which was focused on the UAE ports of Rashid and Jebel Ali (voted “Best Seaport in the Middle East” for 16 consecutive years), and DPI (Dubai Ports International).

In February 2005, DP World signed an agreement with the CPT to construct, develop and operate an international container transhipment terminal at Vallarpadam. It is the largest single operator container terminal currently planned in India and the first in the country to operate in a special economic zone (SEZ).

Job opportunity

The new terminal will make Kochi a key centre in the shipping world, reducing India's dependence on foreign ports to handle transhipment.

It is also likely to trigger the emergence of several port-related ancillary industries and other sub-contracting facilities in the proximity of Vallarpadam.

The new terminal of the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport will help tap into the potential of the Indian aviation sector to absorb investments of over US$120 billion, which would not only generate lakhs of job opportunities directly and indirectly, but also benefit thousands of Keralites working abroad as both unskilled migrant workers and as skilled professionals.

Inherent potency

Put together, these two projects have the real potential to significantly alter Kerala's industrial and commercial facade. Despite all the inordinate delays and the customary political bickering behind the execution and delivery of the projects, they are still noteworthy for their inherent potency.

Yet, the physical closure of these projects alone will not guarantee success. There are other logistics and infrastructure details that need to be followed up on. For instance, the quality of approach roads and highways, the need for a quality mass transit system for Kochi, along the likes of the Delhi Metro, affordable public transportation, and so on. If these penultimate, critical needs are not addressed fast – and well – both the ICTT and the new terminal of the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport are likely to be remembered more for their foundation stones than anything else.

The writer can be contacted at >kgkumar@gmail.com

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Published on February 13, 2011
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