The stage is set for Vizhinjam being declared as international crew change and bunkering hub with the 50th vessel exercising the facility off the port on Monday.
Nave Buena Suerte, a crude oil tanker under the flag of Hong Kong and moving from Singapore, exercised the facility three nautical miles within the Vizhinjam port limits, helping seven seafarers to sign off and 10 to sign on.
This is the 50th vessel since the outer anchorage crew change began off Vizhinjam port on July 14 opening new business opportunities for shipping companies, transshipment service providers, and the travel trade. Ever Globe, a 2.19-lakh tonnage container ship, sailing under the flag of Panama from Egypt to Colombo, was the first to exercise this facility.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will soon make the declaration as Vizhinjam already occupies a place in the international maritime map. The Kerala Maritime Board, shipping agents and other stakeholders have commenced steps to exploit the demand for anchorage, the cheapest option for cargo-laden ships to drop off crew working beyond their contract tenure and to bring in relievers to the vessel.
Lack of facilities
Lack of tugs and infrastructure facilities in the harbour and the laxity on the part of the officials to give speedy clearance are the hurdles to the port emerging as a permanent crew change destination like Mumbai, Kochi, and Goa ports. A tug of the Maritime Board and another hired one are being used now.
“We need rooms for the crew, Customs, Immigration and port agents. For bunkering to take off, the government should provide land close to the coast for constructing tanks for oil storage. The oil companies are willing to come forward. The State should also reduce the tax for bunkering,” says Jude Sajith D’cruz, managing director of Dowins Resources, shipping agents.
Making available food, drinking water, maintenance of the vessel, providing spare parts, fuelling, and cleaning of the tankers are the opportunities that can be provided once the facilities for bunkering hub is set up.
“We are taking steps to create the requisite facilities and offer bunkering facilities in the days ahead as crew change and bunkering have good potential,” says Board Chairman V.J. Mathew. The State exchequer has benefited as ₹50 lakh has been obtained through the outer anchorage and crew change.