Vizhinjam hopeful of setting new benchmark in turnaround time

With global shipping majors preferring ports with an 18-metre or more draft, Vihinjam, with an approximately 20-metre draft, is a major attraction for shipping lines

Updated - July 10, 2024 09:48 pm IST

Published - July 10, 2024 09:16 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Minister for Ports V.N. Vasavan visits international seaport at Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.

Minister for Ports V.N. Vasavan visits international seaport at Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.

The long-awaited Vizhinjam international seaport, India’s first deep-water container transshipment port, is all set to put India on the map of global sea trade, scripting a new chapter in the global maritime trade. However, the port will have to carve its niche by competing with port majors like Colombo, Singapore, or Port Klang. A cursory glance through the infrastructure and technical prowess of these ports will reveal that Vizhinjam has a long way to go.

For instance, Singapore and Colombo ports handled 36.8 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) and 6.85 million TEUs of containers in 2020, whereas the projected capacity of Vizhinjam in the first phase is just 1 million. The turnaround time of vessels, one of the key parameters, that determines the competitiveness of a port, was relatively high in India, largely due to the complex customs clearance associated with the business.

However, according to the latest figures available with the Shipping Ministry, the Indian ports have recently achieved a “turnaround time” of 0.9 days, as per the World Bank’s logistic performance index report for 2023. This is better than the U.S.A (1.5 days), UAE (1.1 days) Singapore (1.0 days), Russian Federation (1.8 days), Malaysia (1.0), Ireland (1.2 days), Indonesia (1.1 days), New Zealand (1.1 days) and South Africa (2.8 days).

Less than a day

According to sources close to Vizhinjam port, the turnaround time would be less than one day in Vizhinjam. However, the exact details would be available only after the successful start of commercial operations, they said. 

Vizhinjam also has certain limitations in offering competitive rates for shipping lines in the beginning compared to Colombo or Singapore. However, the major attraction of Vizhinjam is its proximity to international shipping routes and its deep draft. For instance, the minimum voyage time to Vizhinjam port from the Seuz route, which accounts for a significant share of the global container traffic between the U.S., Europe, and Asia, is around 0.5 to 1 hour, almost equal to the time to Colombo port. On the other hand, all the other ports on the west and east coasts of the country require a voyage of more than 5 hours from the shipping route, said sources.

Insufficient draft

Plus, with global shipping majors preferring ports with an 18-metre or more draft, Vihinjam, with an approximately 20-metre draft, is a major attraction for shipping lines. Even the neighbouring Cochin and V. O. Chidambaranar Port in Thoothukudi have an insufficient draft of 14.5 m and 14.2 m, respectively. With state-of-the-art infrastructure, Vizhinajm can now handle the largest mother ships in operation. 

Further, considering the fact that Indian ports handle around 10% of transshipment cargo out of the total container traffic volume the ports handle every year, Vizhinjam can reduce the dependence of the EXIM communities on the foreign transshipment hubs of Singapore, Colombo, and Port Klang in Malaysia, said the sources.  

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