With trailers clogging roads leading to Chennai Port, road project moves at a snail’s pace

Every day, 825 trailers are parked on the northern portion of Inner Ring Road (IRR), 700 on Ennore Expressway, 300 on Chennai Bypass and 190 on Manali Oil Refinery Road (MORR). Over 3,000 trailers carrying containers to Chennai Port wait on these roads for at least a day, clogging the whole of north Chennai, and at times, paralysing vehicular movement there.

“There have been times when we have been stuck for four hours on the road. A common sight here is MTC buses and share autorickshaws driving on the wrong side of the road without any qualms, thanks to the unending line of trailers. When the port came up, many people were happy, as they thought it meant job opportunities, but now they curse the day it came,” said Kumar, a resident of Manali.

In May this year, National Highways Authority of India sought help from the State government, Chennai Port Trust, police, Customs, CRPF and other agencies to resolve the issue of congestion on these four roads that form the Ennore-Manali Road Improvement Project (EMRIP).

However, though several meetings have been convened, not much has changed. Due to the congestion, only 40 per cent of the work on the Rs. 600 crore-EMRIP has been completed. Of this, 30 per cent is on Tiruvottiyur-Ponneri-Panchetti Road and Ennore Expressway and almost nothing on IRR and MORR.

“If this continues, factors such as cost escalation and claims from the contractor will crop up, and the project will be delayed even beyond its June 2013 deadline,” said an NHAI source.

A solution to the issue however, is nowhere in sight despite several agencies involved in the packing, sealing and shipping of containers in Chennai Port offering a fix. Police sources said that Customs-notified check points could be set up in Chengalpattu, Red Hills and Sriperumbudur, and trailers could wait until the appointed day of exporting the container. Container Freight Station (CFS) agents have suggested that instead of sending factory-stuffed containers to the Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) in Madhavaram for verification of the excise seal, containers could be sent to their facilities where Customs officials could be stationed for 24 hours.

Of the 1,400 trailers that enter the port daily, 500 are cleared through the CFS and the remainder through the CWC. Congestion occurs since the CWC does not have parking facilities and the containers cannot go back to the factory after the Customs sealing, and so, the trailers wait on the roads. Containers that have finished Customs formalities wait on the road for one or two days, even though their ships have not even arrived at the port.

A section of port users have requested Customs officials to carry out document and physical verification of the Customs seal inside the port premises, as considerable time is wasted by exporters on roads to  Chennai Port.

Citing the availability of space at coal and iron ore yards for parking of laden containers at the harbour, port users said that after the verification of the seal, containers should be allowed to park at the terminal yard, followed by document verification by Customs.

Later, they should be allowed to enter the respective terminal for loading.

Port users have now sought permission from Customs to carry out this new procedure, and have given a proposal to Chennai Port Trust chairman to facilitate it.

About six years ago, factory-stuffed containers were allowed to enter the port after sealing by excise officials. But due to growing volume, Customs decided to carry out documentation at select CFS even though stuffed containers are checked at loading points itself.

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