Vizhinjam International Seaport, India’s first semi-automated container port, is all set to receive the first container vessel from Maersk on July 11 as part of a trial run in the 800-metre container berth.

MV San Fernando, the ship from Xiamen Port in China with a capacity of 8000-9000 TEU’s will unload around 2000 containers and re-arrange another 400 containers.

The ₹7500 crore project is a major economic infrastructure promoted by Kerala Government with Adani Group through a PPP mode after forming an SPV Adani Vizhinjam Port Pvt Ltd (AVPPL). AVPPL entered into a concession agreement with Kerala Ports department on August 17, 2015 and the construction work started on December 5, 2015.

Of the total project cost, Adani Group has so far invested around ₹4500 crore. The company has earmarked another ₹9500 crore investment in phase II and III project to be completed within 2028, official sources said.

Divya S.Iyer, Managing Director, VISL said that more container ships would be berthed in the next three months. The commissioning of the port is expected to be in September or October after successful trial operations and stabilization of all performance parameters.

Vizhinjam is envisaged to handle majorly transshipment containers. Transshipment container operation on commercial basis requires higher precision and performance parameters. It is imperative for the success of the port to have global standard on key parameters of dwell times, vessel turnaround, berth productivity, vehicle service time, ship handling productivity, quay crane productivity etc, she said.

Being an automated port, she said the normal testing with dummy vessels and barges loaded with dummy containers may not be sufficient for completing the tests required and achieving the desired key performance indicators. Therefore a trial run deploying real container vessels and real containers with cargo is planned in the first 600 m of the berth already completed and equipped with STS Cranes.

“A competitive tariff structure for ships and containers are the expectation of the steamer agents who wish to get associated with the new facility”, said Binu K.S., president of Kerala Steamer Agents Association. The new port has many unique features to offer the trade such as state-of-the-art equipment, modern technology, natural draught which will be a game changer. Cargoes originating from and destined to Chittagong and Eastern India will get a relief by transhipment through Vizhinjam, he added.

According to Prakash Iyer, chairman of Cochin Port Users Forum, the direct sailings from Vizhinjam would be beneficial for seafood, coir, cashew exporters from the South because of direct sailings and without depending on Colombo port for transhipment. Both Cochin and Vizhinjam ports can also compete in a friendly manner to boost exports from the region, he added.