The construction of an outer harbour container terminal at VO Chidambaranar port in Thoothukudi, conceived a decade ago, finally takes off with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday laying the foundation stone for the ₹7,056-crore project. The terminal can help VOC port become a major container transshipment hub to compete for box cargo traffic with neigbouring Colombo.

The project was announced in 2013 by the then Congress government, with an annual capacity to handle 4 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). But it was delayed due to various reasons, said a senior government official without elaborating.

The project will transform VOC Port to make it the first transshipment hub on the east coast of India, Union Shipping Minister Sarbanananda Sonowal told mediapersons in Chennai on Tuesday.

Public-private partnership

Meanwhile, the request for qualification (RFQ) was issued by the VOC Port Authority for the the development of the outer harbour container terminal project with viability gap funding from Government of India through public-private partnership on a ‘design, build, finance, operate and transfer’ basis.. The project includes two container terminals in the outer harbour, including the dredging and construction of a breakwater at the port.

The initial handling capacity will be 2 million TEUs in the first phase, with another 2 million TEUs added in the second phase.

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The construction period would be 36 months for the first stage and 24 months for the second stage. The concessionaire shall commence construction of the first container terminal mmediately from the date of award of the concession and commercial operations would begin 36 months later.

The concessionaire shall commence construction of the second container terminal 24 calendar months from the date on which the average annual volume of cargo handled reaches 70 per cent of project capacity for two consecutive years of stage I, or 96 calendar months from the date of award of concession, whichever is earlier. However, the concessionaire has the liberty to commence the construction of Stage II earlier, the RFQ document says.


The depth in the proposed dredge boundary of the outer harbour basin varies from 10 m to 14.5 m, and around 15 m in the existing channel. Hence, to handle the design-size vessel, the concessionaire shall carry out capital dredging in front of the terminals/ berths and other areas of the outer harbour to 16.9 m and in the channel to 17.4 m, in order to handle vessels up to 16 m draught, the document said.

The concessionaire( is responsible for maintaining a minimum depth of 16.9 m in the dock basin and turning circle basin, and 17.40 m in the approach channel throughout the concession period. This draught should help the port attract large ‘mother’ container vessels, a source said.