Will the tide turn for the sleepy port town of Machilipatnam?

G Naga Sridhar Hyderabad | Updated on June 28, 2021

Early this week, the Andhra Pradesh government set in motion the process of construction of a modern port at Machilipatnam

In the 1st Century AD, the port town of Masula at the mouth of River Krishna on the Bay of Bengal in Andhra Pradesh used to be a bustling hub of exports with Roman vessels arriving here to ferry silks and spices back home. After that, Machilipatnam, as it is called today, went into decline, witnessing a revival between the 16th and 18th centuries when the Dutch, Portuguese and East India Company used it as a trading outpost.

Post Independence, Machilipatnam saw commercial activity steadily ebb away. Now, there are only a few fishing boats to be seen. Can the sleepy port be re-awakened to its old glory days?

₹3,650-crore plan

Early this week, the Andhra Pradesh government set in motion the process of construction of a modern port at Machilipatnam, submitting tenders for judicial preview. If the plans pass, it will happen under the Landlord Port Model at an estimated cost of ₹ 3,650 crore.

“What succeeded 2,000 years ago can succeed again,’’ proclaims K Muralidharan, Chief Executive Officer, Andhra Pradesh Maritime Board. “Machilipatnam is strategically located and can be seen as a gateway to the north from South,” the state maritime board chief said, adding that it will benefit land-locked Telangana as well.

As of now, Mumbai and Kandla ports service the two Telugu States. “The upcoming port will significantly reduce this distance and can be used for export of pharma, coal, engineering goods and a host of other products,” he said. About 5,000 acres of land has been selected.

According to the construction plan, 2.99 km length of break waters, one multi-purpose berth, two general cargo berths, one coal berth, dredging quantity of about 48.54 million cubic metres, internal and external infrastructure will come up under the first phase within 30 months.

Economic benefits

While the economic benefits of the proposed port is beyond dispute, the political will to make it a reality has been lacking. Maytas, which was promoted by Ramalinga Raju of scam-hit Satyam Computers, first bagged the contract for the project but failed to achieve financial closure. Then it was awarded to Navayuga Engineering Company in 2010 which also did not make any headway, and the contract was cancelled in 2019.

Not surprisingly, residents are sceptical. “What we are actually looking for is for the inauguration of the port, not just the award of contracts. This has happened many times,’’ said Lakshmikanth Jonnalagadda, a management consultant and resident of Machilipatnam.

Published on June 27, 2021

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