Shortage of Customs officials is one of the reasons for the delay

The container terminal of Larsen and Toubro's Kattupalli shipyard-cum-captive port is all set to commence operations and awaiting communication from the Customs Department notifying the terminal.

The port has been in the news since January 2012 and is touted by the export-import trade as an alternative to the Chennai Port, which is facing congestion for the last two years.

The port is located adjacent to the Ennore Port. While the latter handles break-bulk carriers, cars and coal vessels, it may take one more year or more for its container terminal to be ready. L&T is ready with its container terminal (berth two). The six-line gate complex is connected to two container berths by a four-lane road.

According to informed sources, the L&T management wrote to the Customs Department some six months ago seeking notification of the area for handling containers. Customs officials visited the port on February 27. It is said that shortage of Customs officials is one of the reasons for the delay.

Talking to The Hindu, a Customs House agent said, “Currently, Customs are deploying their officials from the Chennai Port to the Ennore Port for clearing consignments. As the Ennore Port receives fewer vessels, it does not pose any problem. But, the L&T Port would require more officials. Perhaps, a separate Commissionerate is needed to handle both the terminals… L&T has acquired land to create basic facilities for Customs officials.”

When Central Board of Excise and Customs Chairman S.K. Goel visited the city last week, the matter was referred to him. He also made a reference to the shortage of Customs staff in his speech and said that efforts were on to recruit more officials.

Three rail-mounted quayside cranes (RMQCs) arrived at the L&T Port in December 2011 from China and are ready for operations.

It also has 15 rubber-tyred gantry cranes (RTGCs), two reach stackers and 420 reefer plug points. The port employees have been trained in RTGCs, sources said. On April 12, L&T received Zhen Hua 20, a heavy lift vessel, with three more RMQCs to be installed at the second berth. Out of the three cranes, one crane was installed on Sunday. It will take at least a month to commission it.

The L-shaped berths will handle about 1.2 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units of containers. Initially, the port will handle only container cargo. Later, the capacity would be expanded to handle other cargo. The berths would be operated by the Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services Inc for 28 years.

A company note says the Rs.4,675-crore project is being implemented by L&T Shipbuilding Ltd., a joint venture between L&T and Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation . It will build commercial ships, specialised cargo ships, defence ships, including submarines, offshore platforms and floating platform-cum-storage facility and heavy engineering fabrication and component production for ship building.