India, which is eyeing Cochin port as a possible trans-shipment hub and an alternative to Sri Lanka’s Colombo port, will invest over ₹380 crore towards deepen draft depth at the port to 16 metres. Additional investment to raise capacity of the international trans-shipment terminal to 2 million TEUs, is also being planned, Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal, said.

According to him, a part of the draft deepening cost – nearly 50 per cent - will be brought under Sagarmala programme while Cochin port has been asked to bear the remaining 50 per cent of the cost.

The concessionaire, on its part, has shown interest to invest in augmenting the capacity of the terminal to 2 million TEUs.

Operated by DP World, the International Container Trans-Shipment Terminal (also called ICTT) at Cochin has a 14.5 metre draft with the terminal’s cargo handling capacity being 1 million TEUs. The terminal is currently capable of handling post Panamax ships.

“Cochin is being considered as a trans-shipment hub to provide the much-needed direct connectivity to foreign ports from South India which will reduce the lead time for our EXIM (export-import) trade by an average of 5-7 days,” he told businessline.

According to the Minister, with the container vessel sizes going up over the years, it is important that the infrastructure at ICTT is scaled up and made available to accept container vessels “without any discrimination and turn it around faster”.

In FY22, Cochin port’s ICTT at Vallarpadam handled a container traffic of 1.56 lakh TEUs, an 80 per cent growth YoY.

Last fiscal, the port handled cargo volume of 34.55 million tonnes (MT), registering a growth of 10 per cent. In container handling, its throughput was 7.36 lakh TEUs, a growth of 7 per cent YoY.

Improving turnaround time

According to Sonowal, the average turnaround time for container vessels at major ports in the country has improved to 26.58 hrs, from the previous 43.44 hrs.

Some of the efforts taken up for this include mechanisation and modernisation of berths, dredging to accommodate larger vessels and automation of processes; regulate bunching of vessels; better maintenance of navigational aids tugs, channel bouys, etc.) and re-plotting of anchorage area to reduce turnaround time.

Other efforts include hot seat arrangements for crane operators, avoiding delay in handing over at the time of change of shift in all ports, apart from making available adequate handling equipment and evacuation equipment for berthing.