The arrival of cargo vessels from Lakshadweep islands at the Azhikkal port here after a gap of several years has given an impetus to the port that is already awaiting a Rs. 150 crore development project which is expected to turn this riverine port into a major intermediate port in the State.

Five vessels from the Lakshadweep islands reached here in February and four vessels anchored in the port in the first week of March, port officials here said adding that 10 more vessels from the islands were expected to reach here in the coming days. The 150-200 tonne vessels from Lakshadweep carrying fish products and copra, among others, ship back construction materials including river sand, cement and vegetables. Two decades back, the Azhikkal was a port of call for vessels coming from the islands. But the number of vessels reaching the port declined drastically over the years as a result of lack of development and dredging. The signs of the revival of the port for cargo movement to and from Lakshadweep followed the ongoing dredging to deepen the depth of the outer and inner channels of the port.

“There is a momentum now following the facilities provided by the government at the port, said M. Sudheer Kumar, Senior Port Conservator at the Azhikkal port. He also referred to the decision of the government to develop the port as global tender has been floated for developing the Azhikkal port here through the public-private partnership. The arrival of the vessels from the islands was strengthening that momentum as it was happening after nearly a decade during which there was no major shipping operation in the port, he told The Hindu. The total volume of cargo handled in the port over the past 10 years was even less than 500 tonnes, he added. He also exuded the hope that the cargo movement at the port would increase once the dredging work was completed.

The facilities at the port include 225-metre wharf and a truck-mounted crane as also the four-acre land acquired by the government for the development of the port. The ongoing dredging work is to increase the depth of the outer and inner channels to four metres. The port officials here said that dredging work at the outer channel was almost completed. The sandbars at the mouth of the port were a major hurdle for the vessels to enter the basin. Many parts of the mouth had a depth of 2.5 metres, they said adding that the outer channel was now navigable for the vessels. The work would now start to increase the depth of the inner channel, they said adding that once that work was completed vessels with higher draft could enter the port.

Earlier, there was a proposal for giving a portion of the wharf for the exclusive berthing of vessels from Lakshadweep. The Lakshadweep Administration had even signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the development of this port in 2002. However, it did not materialise.

The port officials here said that the Azhikkal port has great potential as an intermediate port.

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