The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, today dedicated to the nation the first phase of the Rs 6,250-crore International Container Transhipment Terminal at nearby Vallarpadam Island that would help exporters access mainline container vessels calling at the port.

Describing the project as a ‘long awaited milestone’ in the development of the country’s logistics infrastructure, he said “it is a symbol of how public-private partnership can contribute to public good’’.

Dr Manmohan, who had laid the foundation stone for the project in February 2005, said: “I am delighted to see how well this state-of-the-art terminal has come up.”

The absence of a global hub port and lack of transhipment facilities had put the country’s trade at a disadvantage, he said.

Noting that about 60 per cent of India’s export and import containers were transhipped through outside ports like Singapore and Colombo, he said it cost an additional expenditure of $300 per container and an extra 7-10 days of transit time.

With the new facility located at the Special Economic Zone at Vallarpadam Island, Indian exporters can now access mainline container vessels calling at one of the most well located ports of India.

The construction of the terminal is the centre piece of a comprehensive plan to develop Kochi as an economic and logistical hub of the region, the Prime Minister said.

The project area has been declared as SEZ with a road link to connect Vallarpadam with two national highways, besides a 8.5-km rail link connecting the terminal to the railway network.

The navigation channels were being deepened which was a challenging task involving the removal of nearly 26 million cubic metres of soil, Dr Manmohan said.

Stressing the need to vastly increase the use of fuel-efficient, environment friendly and safe modes of transport such as inland waterways, he said this mode of transportation was very suitable for bulk, containerised and hazardous cargo as is the case worldwide.