Several steps have been initiated to transform Chennai into a major transhipment hub on the East coast, Union Minister of Shipping G.K. Vasan has said.

Since Chennai port is an old facility and located in the heart of the city, there are constraints such as limited availability of land and problems relating to cargo evacuation. The Rs.380-crore Rajiv Gandhi Dry Port at Sriperumbudur, which he launched on Saturday, and the Maduravoyal elevated four-lane link road, for which he handed over a cheque for Rs.50 crore to the National Highways Authority of India, are meant to overcome these constraints and make Chennai a major transhipment hub, Mr. Vasan said.

He was addressing a function here got up in connection with these two projects and commencement of the Rs.170-crore capital dredging project at Ennore port.

Pointing out that 125 acres have been acquired from the SIPCOT at a cost of Rs.100 crore for the dry port, Mr. Vasan said: “This is the first of its kind in the country and may become a trendsetter.”

He also announced that the Rs.1,655-crore Maduravoyal elevated link project, sanctioned two years ago, had now received environmental clearance. It would link western and southern production zones with the Chennai port.

“Now that all the hurdles have been cleared, I urge the State government and the NHAI to speed up the execution of this project.”

Mr. Vasan said that developmental programmes to the tune of Rs.10,000 crore had been taken up in the three ports in Tamil Nadu. “I have no doubt that these ports in future will become the best among the ports in South Asia.”

Chennai Port Trust Chairman Atulya Misra, presenting the profile of the dry port, said Chennai, one of the oldest ports in the country, was the second smallest in the country, encompassing only 274 hectares.

This severely impeded cargo operations. Cargo movement to the port was increasing by 21 per cent.