Monday, June 24, 2013

India’s deepest port from God’s Own Country

Source: http://www.sagarsandesh.com/news/indias-deepest-port-from-gods-own-country/

-Public hearing for the Rs. 4,010-crore Vizhinjam international deep water seaport will be held on June 29


Tapping advantages of its long coastline that has proximity to international EXIM route, Kerala Government has unveiled its master plan for having a green field port at Vizhinjam.

According to the initial information made available to Media, the Vizhinjam international seaport will have the deepest draft in the country and it will be able to berth mega vessels of 18,000-TEU capacity.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has released the master plan for the project and its detailed project report in the presence of Ports Minister K. Babu and other dignitaries very recently.

Since public hearing is mandatory for such projects, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board in a notice announced that public hearing for the Rs. 4010-crore Vizhinjam international deep water seaport, a Kerala Government project proposed to be developed through Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd (VISL), will be held on June 29 at Aswathy Auditorium, Pallichal Road, Vizhinjam.

THE BACKGROUND

The State of Kerala, located along the West Coast of India, is endowed with a coastline of 580 km. Along this coast there are 14 minor ports, three intermediate ports and one major port (Cochin).

The minor ports and the intermediate ports come under the jurisdiction of Department of Ports, GoK, and the Cochin Port is under the jurisdiction of Ministry of Shipping, Government of India (GoI). Out of the minor/intermediate ports, Vizhinjam harbour is one which has been accorded minor port status in 1977. Since then, a fishing harbour and a custom port have been developed with limited facilities like a wharf and transit shed.

The Government of Kerala through its special purpose Government company –  Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd (VISL) – is developing a deep water multi-purpose green field port at Vizhinjam. The VISL has been formed as a nodal agency for implementing the green field port at Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram, Capital City of Kerala.

THE MODEL

The proposed project is based on a Landlord Port Model, where all the civil work facilities – construction of basic infrastructure like breakwater, quay wall, dredging, reclamation, rail and road access to the port – will be developed by VISL.  The port operation will be through the PPP model for an agreed concession time period. Terminal operator (s) will be required to develop the container yard, terminal buildings and purchase & operate the cargo handling equipments.

THE MASTER PLAN

As per the master plan, the port will be developed in three phases.

Once fully developed, the port is envisioned to have

-  Fish landing centre with a total berth length of 850m in Phase-1 development.

- Breakwaters of total length 5,160m (north breakwater 3,960m, inner south breakwater 725m to be developed in Phase-1 and south breakwater of length 475m to be developed in Phase-3) to be developed in two phases.

-  Total container berth length of 2,000m which would be developed in three phases (800m in Phase-1, additional 400m in Phase-2 and another 800m in Phase-3).

- Container yard commensurate with the quay development in three phases.

-  Cruise berths of 600m which would be developed in two phases (300m in Phase-2 and another 300m in Phase-3).

-  Port craft berth of 220m and Coast Guard berth of 120m length in Phase-1.

The port is designed to primarily cater to the container trans-shipment business with provision for a cruise terminal and general/multi-purpose cargo area.

THE LOCATION

The proposed port at Vizhinjam is located in India in the state of Kerala, 16 km south of Thiruvananthapuram which falls in a close proximity to the international East-West shipping route.

The port location is selected to tap the potential for development of a deep water international container trans-shipment port that can handle the largest container vessels navigating the East-West shipping route. The proposed port location is just south to the existing fishery harbour of Vizhinjam.

THE ADVANTAGE

The key advantage of the proposed site location is availability of naturally deep water and proximity to the East-West shipping channel. An overview of the bathymetry reveals that the seabed within the survey area covering the water front of the proposed port and the approach channel is gently sloping down towards south west, i.e. seabed depth contours are perpendicular to the shoreline towards sea. No significant bathymetric undulations are recorded within the survey area for the depths considered for the proposed port. The site is characterized by naturally available deep water depths with 20m contour located at a distance of less than 800m from the shore.

ROAD CONNECTIVITY

Thiruvananthapuram district is well connected by road, rail and airport to the rest of the country. National Highway NH 47 passes through Thiruvananthapuram and is at a distance of approximately 8km and running almost parallel to the shoreline.

NH47 connects Salem to Kanyakumari and is connected to Cochin Port through NH 47A. From Cochin to further north it is connected to Mumbai through NH 17. Thiruvananthapuram in North and Nagercoil and Kanyakumari in south are the nearest major urban centres on the NH 47.

It is also connected to the major towns such as Thrissur, Palakkad, Kollam and Alappuzha in Kerala and Coimbatore and Salem in Tamil Nadu. NH 47 is connected to Chennai and the rest of the country through NH 7 and NH 4.

NH 47 bypass road from Thiruvananthapuram extends up to Kovalam and construction works are in progress to extend it up to Parassala.

RAIL CONNECTIVITY

A railway line runs parallel to the NH 47 which connects major towns such as Thrissur, Palakkad, Kollam and Alappuzha. The existing railway line runs North-South and connects to Mumbai through Konkan Railway. This rail line connects southern parts of Tamil Nadu through Nagercoil and Tiruchi as well as to the North-West region of Tamil Nadu through Palakkad and Coimbatore.

Neyyatinkara and Balaramapuram railway stations are approximately 10 km (aerial distance) from the Vizhinjam Port location. The rail line is broad with single line running between Thiruvananthapuram and Kanyakumari. Beyond Thiruvananthapuram towards north, double rail line exists up to Kayamkulam.

The gigantic project was showcased in Emerging Kerala, a global investor’s meet held in Kochi.

“The Kerala Government is committed to clear all the hurdles and realise this project fast,” declared State Port Minister K. Babu. An environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) study has been completed by the Asian Consulting Engineers Private Limited, an accredited agency hired by VISL. Civil works will begin once the Government gets clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The site is on the busiest international shipping channels, and the sea water along the southern coast of Kerala near Vizhinjam has a natural depth of up to 22 metres. These two factors will enable the port attract big container ships, claimed Mr. A. S. Suresh Babu, Chief Executive Officer of VISL. “At present, almost 40 per cent of India’s trans-shipment is done at the Colombo Port in Sri Lanka. If the Vizhinjam port is built, it can contribute significantly to the container trans-shipment business of the country,” according to him. Since the seabed is rocky, the port does not need maintenance dredging either, he added.

OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

There are 31 beach resorts on the Vizhinjam coast. They cater mainly to foreign tourists who come here for Ayurveda treatment and employ nearly 3,000 people. The resorts will go out of business once the port is built. The owners of these resorts pointed out the proposed port would offer only 500 jobs.

Kerala Hotels and Restaurant Association has protested the project. Of the Rs 18,000 crore generated a year by the State’s Tourism sector, over 30 per cent come from the Kovalam-Vizhinjam-Poovar belt, noted the owners of the resorts on the Vizhinjam coast. At least a sum of Rs. 20,000 crore has been spent for developing the tourism infrastructure in this belt and all of that will go waste if the resorts are shut due to the port development, stated Mr. M. R. Narayanan, Secretary General of the South Kerala Hoteliers’ Forum.

FACTS FALSIFIED

The hoteliers also allege that VISL has falsified the facts to get clearance for the project from MoEF. The firm had hired L & T Ramboll, a leading consultancy firm in the country, for a site selection study in 2004. “The study says there are only three resorts in the project area,” remarked Mr. Cyriac Kodath of Coconut Bay, a resort that falls within the project area. VISL seeks ESIA approval in the public hearing based on this study. The study does not say a thing about the possible environmental damage, biodiversity destruction and the peculiar erosion pattern in the southern coast, charged the hoteliers.

There is no industrial belt / manufacturing units in and around Vizhinjam and no such activity is expected to pick up in the near future too. So, Vizhinjam port will have to necessarily depend on the trans-shipment traffic only, which is highly volatile and depends on many factors including the Cabotage / coastal policy etc. Once developed the port will have to gear up for stiff competition from internal (ICTT, Vallarpadam) as well as external established hub ports like Colombo, Portkelang, Tanjung Pelepas and Singapore.

Further the proposed seaport can spell disaster for fishermen and environmentalists.

More than 20,000 fisher families live in 11 villages in the vicinity of the proposed project site. Despite warnings, the Kerala Government has decided to go ahead with the construction of Vizhinjam seaport which, according to marine experts, would be an ecological disaster. Marine experts warn that the port would damage the ecologically fragile coastal belt of southern Kerala, hurt the marine fauna and flora, change the shoreline and erode the popular Kovalam Beach north of the project site.

The international container trans-shipment terminal, highlighted as a dream project that would lure huge investments, would not contribute to economic development of the State either, according to finance experts.

The gigantic project was showcased in Emerging Kerala, a global investor’s meet held in Kochi.

“The Kerala Government is committed to clear all the hurdles and realise this project fast,” declared State Port Minister K. Babu. An environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) study has been completed by the Asian Consulting Engineers Private Limited, an accredited agency hired by VISL. Civil works will begin once the Government gets clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The site is 18 km from the Malacca strait, which is one of the busiest international shipping channels, and the sea water along the southern coast of Kerala near Vizhinjam has a natural depth of up to 22 metres. These two factors will enable the port attract big container ships, claimed Mr. A. S. Suresh Babu, Chief Executive Officer of VISL. “At present, almost 40 per cent of India’s trans-shipment is done at the Colombo Port in Sri Lanka. If the Vizhinjam port is built, it can contribute significantly to the container trans-shipment business of the country,” according to him. Since the seabed is rocky, the port does not need maintenance dredging either, he added.

Just like Vizhinjam, Adimalathurai, a village south of the port site, too, is an important fish landing centre. “If the port is built here, the area will come under the port authorities and fishers will be denied access to the sea,” according to Mr. T. Peter, the State President of Kerala Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation, an independent federation of fishers.

Marine scientists say that underwater rock dredging, rock removal, reclamation of sea, sand mining, construction of breakwater and quay walls for the port and the resulting pollution will cause substantial damage to the coastline and the fisheries resources. “The affected coastline will most likely extend to 10 km north and south of the proposed port,” observed Mr. Sanjeev Ghosh, former Additional Director of the Department of Fisheries of the Kerala Government.

He pointed out that the Wadge Bank, the main fishing ground in southern India, is just 50 km off the Vizhinjam coast. “It is a breeding ground for over 200 varieties of fish and is the largest coral reef of the Indian Ocean,” he says. The Wadge Bank is home to more than 60 species of ornamental fish and other oceanic animals. Commercially important fish such as squids, cuttle fish, carangids, tuna, anchovies and lobsters are abundant there.

Mr. K. K. Appukuttan, retired scientist of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute in Kochi, observed that several endangered, threatened and protected species like Leatherback turtle, Olive Ridley turtle, black pearl oyster and dolphins have been spotted on this coast. “The construction work will cause heavy silting up, leading to massive biodiversity loss.”
ATTN: The blog was updated for a factual error.

2 comments:

  1. please get your geography right. malacca strait is off malaysia, you are saying vizhinjam is 18kms from there?

    ReplyDelete