“We are planning to raise the total cargo handling capacity of our ports from the current one billion tonnes to 3.2 billion tonnes by 2020,” G.K. Vasan, Union Minister for Shipping, announced on Friday.

Speaking at a function at Ennore Port to commemorate the overall capacity of the ports in the country touching one billion tonne mark, he called it a “golden day” in the Indian maritime history and a “landmark achievement.”

Even the ambitious target set for the next decade in the Maritime Agenda unveiled recently might not suffice because of the pace of the growth of Indian economy. While a plethora of policy initiatives had been spelt out, newer investment was a must to meet the challenges of high level of growth.

“It is imperative to improve operational efficiency,” he added.

He said that during the past 18 months 22 public-private partnership projects estimated at Rs.6,172 crore had been awarded.

Ennore Port, the first corporate major port, which was originally started for handling only oil, had now grown into one handling various commodities.

With the inauguration of a common user, coal, iron ore and car terminals by Union Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran at the same function, Mr. Vasan said the cargo handling capacity of Ennore Port would rise to 30 million tonnes from the current 15 million tonnes in a couple of years. By 2020, its capacity would shoot up to 90 million tonnes.

The coal terminal with a capacity of eight million tonnes per annum had come up at about Rs.399 crore. The iron ore terminal with the capacity of six million tonnes of the total 12 million tonnes planned had been developed at Rs.360 crore and the car terminal at a cost of Rs.110 crore.

He urged the Japanese Consul General, Kazuo Minagawa, who was present, to use his good offices to get Japanese assistance for improving the outer harbour of Tuticorin.

Responding to Mr. Maran's plea for improving the Colachel Port, a natural port, Mr. Vasan said early steps would be initiated in this regard.

Mr. Maran said the Shipping Ministry had planned to achieve 1.5 billion tonnes cargo handling capacity within two years. Tamil Nadu had a special place in the maritime history because it alone had three major ports and more and more industrial development in the State would require additional capacity for them.

At the same time, that would spur a lot of employment as well, he added.

Mr. Minagawa said three major Japanese ventures set up near here —Nissan and Toyota, both car manufacturers, and Toshiba- a turbine maker—would be able to use Ennore Port substantially.

Explaining the priority accorded to Chennai by Japanese entrepreneurs, he said, “Chennai is the Gateway to the East.”

K. Mohandas, Secretary, Shipping, expressed hope that the Maritime Agenda would be able to provide the capacity to effectively handle the growth of the economy. Further developments could take place “substantially with private investment.”

Rakesh Srivastava, Joint Secretary (Ports), Ministry of Shipping, and M.A.M.R. Muthiah, Managing Director, Chettinad International Coal Terminal Pvt. Ltd., offered felicitations.