The Cochin Port Trust plans to rework its Rs.250-crore bulk cargo terminal project on quays 8 and 9 of Ernakulam wharf after its global call for a private partner for the project failed to elicit any response.

Reworking the project, which envisaged totally mechanised handling operations, will emphasise developing a 14.5-metre quayside to attract large vessels and to pitch it as the only major port in the country to offer such draught for bulk cargo like coal and fertilizer.

The port authority here feels that since the Ernakulam wharf is situated close to the International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) achieving 14.5 draught would not involve significant additional expenditure. Sources said the port was being forced to rework its plans on the drawing board since the container handling operations were shifted to Vallarpadam Island in February 2011, as there was no response to its international call for partners to implement the project.

The lack of interest among potential private partners has largely been attributed to the low handling charges fixed by the Tariff Authority for Major Ports (Tamp) for the project.

Tamp fixes charges at different ports taking the local situations into consideration and its March 2005 notification said TAMP would continue with the portwise cost-plus-return on capital employed approach. The approach appears to have worked against the general cargo terminal project here with rates in the neighbouring ports ruling higher than in Kochi, making it unattractive to potential project partners. Sources said five companies responded to the initial request for the qualification call but none of them took the case forward. The cargo handling charge fixed by Tamp for Kochi is Rs.106 a tonne. In ports like Goa, Tuticorin, Goa and Vishakapatnam, the rates range between Rs.183 and Rs.114 a tonne.

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