It is not smooth sailing as yet for the Vallarpadam Container Terminal in Kochi, the first stage which was commissioned in February this year, Minister for Ports K. Babu has said.

Answering a submission from Ludy Luis in the Assembly on Thursday, Mr. Babu said the ships were taking 30 days and more to unload their containers at the Vallarpadam Container Terminal. Major shipping companies were, therefore, showing a preference for the Colombo Port in Sri Lanka to unload the cargo from their ships.

The Minister said the provisions of the Cabotage Act too were discouraging foreign ships from visiting Vallarpadam. According to the Act, only Indian ships could handle the movement of domestic cargo between Indian ports.

There were only 16 ships that have the permission to move cargo between the Indian ports. The total container capacity of these ships would come to only 12,156 TEU. “It should be noted that we were targeting to handle 7.75 lakh TEU of containers at the Vallarpadam terminal this year… And, the [nearby Kochi Port] is working only up to 40 per cent of its cargo handling capacity,” Mr. Babu said.

The Minister said an amendment to the Cabotage Act had become very crucial in ensuring the smooth functioning of the Vallarpadam Container Terminal. It was also vital for Kerala's economic development.

He said Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had written letters to the Prime Minister, the Union Shipping Minister and the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission on September 1 explaining these issues and seeking the appropriate changes in the Cabotage Act.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee governing the subject, in a report relating to the development of the Indian ports submitted in the Rajya Sabha on August 11, too had suggested changes in the relevant Act, Mr. Babu said.

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