Centre to invest over ₹380 crore to deepen draft depth at Cochin port

India, eyeing Cochin Port as a potential transshipment hub and alternative to Colombo Port in Sri Lanka, will invest more than Rs 380 crore towards deepening the port’s draft depth to 16 metres. Ports, Shipping and Waterways Minister Sarbananda Sonwal said additional investments are being planned to increase the capacity of the international cargo terminal to 2 million TEU.

According to him, part of the cost of deepening the draft – nearly 50 per cent – would be included under the Sagarmala Program while the Port of Cochin was asked to bear the remaining 50 per cent of the cost.

The concessionaire, for its part, has shown interest in investing in increasing the terminal’s capacity to two million TEUs.

Operated by DP World, the International Container Shipping Terminal (also called ICTT) in Cochin has a draft of 14.5m with the terminal’s cargo handling capacity of 1 million TEU. The terminal is currently capable of handling Panamax vessels.

“Cochin is seen as a transshipment hub to provide much needed direct connectivity with 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 Business line.

According to the Minister, with container ship volumes rising over the years, it is important that the infrastructure at ICTT is scaled up and made available to accept container ships “without any discrimination and convert them faster”.

In FY22, ICTT at the Port of Cochin in Vallarpadam handled container traffic of 1.56 lakh TEUs, an increase of 80% year-on-year.

In the last fiscal year, the port handled a cargo volume of 34.55 million tons, recording a growth of 10 percent. In container handling, its production was 7.36 thousand TEUs, up 7 percent year-on-year.

Improve response time

According to Sonowal, the average delivery time for container ships at major ports in the country improved to 26.58 hours, from the previous 43.44 hours.

Some of the efforts for this purpose include mechanization and modernization of docks, dredging to accommodate larger vessels and automation of operations; Organizing ship assembly. Better maintenance of navigational aid tugs, channel openings, etc.) and redrawing of the mooring area to reduce response time.

Other efforts include hot seat arrangements for crane operators, avoidance of delays in delivery at shift change times at all ports, apart from provision of adequate handling equipment and evacuation equipment for berthing.