Vallarpadam International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT), built to answer Colombo’s dominance over Indian container transshipment business, is on the verge of a historic achievement in reversing a generation of transshipment trend by luring containers away from Colombo.

MV Zim from China’s Asia-Mediterranean Express (AME) calls at the terminal here on Tuesday to sail out of Kochi with around a hundred TEUs of cargo from Colombo, headed for ports in the Eastern Mediterranean. This promises to be a permanent feature with the Chinese service arriving in Kochi in 12 days from Shanghai and sailing straight to the Mediterranean ports skipping Colombo, industry sources said.

The 4,000-TEU AME service is the first mainline service which will use the ICTT as its transshipment hub in South India instead of Colombo and also the first mainline transshipment vessel that will sail out of Kochi after cabotage law was relaxed in December last year.

Colombo’s dominance over Indian transshipment business is one of the key reasons for the establishment of the container transshipment terminal here, which was inaugurated on February 11, 2011, by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

However, business at ICTT had lagged, reaching around a little over three lakh TEUs this financial year whereas the target was around seven lakh TEUs within two years of the facility being commissioned.

In contrast, business at the combined Colombo facility — Jaya Container Terminal, operated by the Sri Lankan government and South Asia Gateway Terminal, totalled nearly five million TEUs in 2012. More than 70 per cent of it was accounted for by containers originating in and headed for Indian ports.

Jose Paul, former acting chairman of JNPT, expressed optimism and welcomed the development but qualified his optimism by pointing out that a one-off event might not be taken as a significant development. Dr. Paul, however, said that if no extraneous considerations came into picture, the Chinese service could efficiently use Kochi as its transshipment hub without going to Colombo.

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