Cyclone Tauktae damages APSEZ’s breakwater, delays India’s box transhipment ambition


After causing heavy rains and severe damages in several regions of the country, Cyclone Tauktae damaged a portion of the breakwater that Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ) is constructing at its upcoming port at Vizhinjam in Kerala.

This has now further delayed India’s aspirations to develop a container transhipment port to lower the country’s dependence on Colombo port for the transport of cargo containers.

APSEZ has blamed force majeure events such as the cyclone Ockhi in November 2017, high waves, a National Green Tribunal order, the pandemic and reasons attributable to government authorities for overshooting the commercial operations date (COD) set by the concession agreement for the project. The firm is expected to attribute the further delay to the cyclone Tauktae.

Adani Vizhinjam Port Pvt Ltd (AVPPL), the APSEZ unit developing the port, has initiated arbitration proceedings to resolve the disputes arising from the delay in completing the project.

Unexpected damage

The damage to the breakwater from the Cyclone has surprised the state government, as sources say that the breakwater is designed for much higher wave conditions and is supposed to withstand higher waves than what has come due to the Cyclone.

The purpose of a breakwater is to resist extreme wave conditions and to protect the port facilities and give a safe area for ships to berth for loading and unloading cargo.

The state, however, will wait for the report from the Independent Engineer to conclude the reasons for the damage to the break water structure.

AVPPL has constructed 850 metres of the total breakwater of 3.1 kms. Cyclone Tauktae damaged the structure from 676 metre onwards.

Repairs to the damaged portion and the construction of the remaining length of the breakwater is feared to take more time as monsoon will set in over Kerala by the end of the month, halting construction activity for at least three months.

At the current pace of work, the port is expected to be completed by 2024, if not later. This will likely give the new terminal at Colombo port an early bird advantage as it will begin its operations by that time, thereby defeating the very objective of setting up an international container transhipment terminal at Vizhinjam, expressed a source.

Dependency on the port

The Maritime India Vision 2030, a ten-year blueprint for the maritime sector unveiled by PM Modi suggested prioritising development of Vizhinjam in the short-term (1-3 years) by providing required support from the Central government.

Currently, nearly 75 per cent of India’s transshipped container is handled at ports outside India. Colombo, Singapore and Port Klang handle more than 85 per cent of this with Colombo alone handling about 2.5 million TEUs.

Indian ports lose up to $200-220 million of potential revenue each year on transshipment handling of cargo originating/destined for India. The loss is even higher when considering the opportunity to handle cargo emerging from other countries in the region, the Vision document said.

The cyclonic storm Tauktae has wreaked havoc across several parts of the country. The cyclone has now weakened into a depression in a low-pressure area over east Rajasthan and adjoining west Madhya Pradesh, said the Met department.

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