Staff Reporter

Facility to allow bigger vessels to enter Azhikode port

KANNUR: Commencement of construction works of a cargo wharf at the Azhikkal port here last week under the first phase of the port development project has raised hopes of reviving the port and increased cargo traffic with the completion of the works.

The commencement of the first phase works, inaugurated by local MLA M. Prakashan barely five months after it was formally inaugurated by the then Minister for Cooperation and Ports M.V. Raghavan, is cited as the Left Democratic Front Government's commitment to developing the port. The work is planned to be completed in seven modules.

The port development project envisages construction of a cargo wharf, transit sheds and port yards, setting up of new cranes and laying of channel markings in addition to dredging.

The works started last week for constructing a 226-metre cargo wharf to replace the 50-metre wharf at a cost of Rs.550 lakhs and is expected to be completed in 18 months.

According to the port authorities, once the wharf construction is completed bigger vessels can berth at the port.

Though a study conducted as part of the comprehensive port development project expects an increased cargo traffic up to 1.5 lakh tonnes a month, a realistic calculation predicts the assured cargo traffic at 5,000 tonnes of timber a month as the timber industries in the district presently imports nearly 5,000 tonnes of timber.

There is a hope that the timber cargo can be increased to 15,000 tonnes.

"Once the wharf is completed, there will be increased cargo handing at the Azhikkal port, especially the cargo for Lakshadweep," says Kozhikode Port Officer Hari A. Warrier.

He added that higher handling charge at the major ports such as Mangalore and Kochi, which now handle the cargo for Lakshadweep, would make the Azhikkal port more attractive.

Capt. Warrier says that the common facilities such as transit shed and port yards, among others, will be developed in the subsequent modules to be completed by special purpose vehicles (SPVs).

The Azhikkal Port Development Committee that has been in the forefront of the campaign for developing the port calls for increasing the draft and width of the port channel.

The channel should have minimum five-metre draft for bigger vessels with a carrying capacity of 4,000 tonnes to enter the port. Dredging has to be started along with the wharf construction works, says the committee secretary P.P.M. Ashraf.

Equally important is the widening of the channel to form a turning circle for the vessels, he says, adding that at present the channel width is only 70 metres. For bigger vessels a 320-metre turning circle is essential, he says.

The Harbour Engineering Department here says that dredging is essential once the port is ready for bigger vessels. Full-fledged dredging can only be started after the construction of the breakwaters being constructed to stabilise the channel and increase the depth at the bar, says department Executive Engineer Rajamma.

While the breakwater from the Azhikkal side has been completed, that from the Mattul side is being completed, Ms. Rajamma says adding that the breakwaters will prevent the problem of silting.

While the Rs.1,200-crore project presented by the previous Government for developing the port into an all-weather port with private investment still remains an ambitious project, the commencement of the wharf construction has triggered fresh hopes of reviving the port.