: The proposed development of the Azhikkal port here that has been hanging fire for several years now appears to set sail with the renewed interest being shown by people's representatives and collective efforts towards this end.
The development of the Azhikkal port, located near the estuary of the Valapattanam river, is envisaged as linked with another proposal to develop a shipyard facility there.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Ports Minister K. Babu are understood to be fully convinced of the need to develop the port at Azhikkal into a full-fledged port.
The latter, however, is said to have some reservations about the proposal to develop the ship repair complex at Azhikkal.
Kannur MP K. Sudhakaran, who is the chairman of the committee formed to expedite the measures aimed at the development of the port, will meet the Minister on November 8 to make a presentation on the feasibility of the development of the port and shipyard. Admiral (retired) K. Mohan, who heads the expert panel of the committee on port development, will accompany the MP for the presentation.
Azhikkal has been proposed for the development of the Cochin shipyard's ship-repair-cum-maintenance facility. On October 28 last, P. Vinayakumar, Director (Technical) of the Cochin shipyard, visited Azhikkal to examine the feasibility of the proposal to set up the ship repair-cum-maintenance facility there.
“As far as the development of the Azhikkal port is concerned, the Chief Minister and the Ports Minister are fully convinced,” Mr. Sudhakaran told The Hindu , when contacted on Monday. He said he had sought an appointment with the Minister on Tuesday to make a presentation on the feasibility of the developing the port and setting up the shipyard facility.
Mr. Sudhakran said the Union government had already informed the State government that it would give the nod for developing a port in the State.
It was for the State government to decide which port would be developed, he said adding that he was confident that Azhikkal had the potential to be developed into a full-fledged port.
The details of the Central project in the pipeline were not yet clear, he said adding that even if the proposal was to develop the port as a PPP (private-public partnership) project, it would be acceptable as there were many investors willing to participate in the project.
Mr. Sudhakaran said the depth of the channel of the Azhikkal port was not a major problem as it now had a depth of 4 to 5 metres, which could be increased by dredging for navigation of larger vessels. The sandbar around the mouth of the channel was a major hurdle. But the completion of the breakwater would clear the mouth of the sandbars.
Maheshchandra Baliga, president of the North Malabar Chamber of Commerce (NMCC), said people's representatives should pressure the government to expedite measures for the development of the port.
He said the shipyard facility would be an added advantage as some vessels reaching Kochi could be diverted to Azhikkal. The Azhikkal port and the proposed shipyard facility would be catalysts for the development of the area, he added.