Ports serve as gateways to India’s International trade. Approximately 90% of India’s international trade is by ports. India has a coastline of 7,517 km with 12 major ports. The gateway to India’s International maritime trade handles more than 90% of foreign trade. With logistics being an integral part of the economy, the cost estimated at 13%-14% of the GDP is very high compared to other countries in the world where India also has a skewed multimodal transportation mix with 60% freight movement is larger compared to other developed countries. To make logistics network more integrated for port-led development, draft NLP (National logistics policy) also bringing all the stakeholders together with a vision of optimizing the current modal mix (road-60%, rail-30% and water- 9%) to promote the development of multi-modal infrastructure, improving first and last-mile connectivity for MSME, enhancing efficiency across the logistics value chain and ensuring standardization in logistics.
Status of Tuticorin Port in SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation)
Towards greater connectivity, SAARC has formulated Tuticorin port with a vision to focus on improving the general and bulk cargo alone by describing it as being the pipeline provider for the Indian backbone and to be the preferred distribution hub of India.
Tuticorin is one of the largest ports in India. Major hinterland movement takes place from the port through railways with the current capacity of 0.45 mn TEU and handled current traffic of 0.47 mn TEU which is higher than its capacity. It consists of 520.7 km of coastal length with 4 major districts i.e., Ramanathapuram, Tuticorin, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari and the major connectivity between the neighbouring states is catered by the Golden quadrilateral which is also considered as the largest highway project in India.
To understand the potential sector-wise distribution of GDDP in the state where Tamil Nadu is one of India’s top three progressive states based on economic and social conditions. Government is also one of the primary investors in the state with a total investment of 52% which is then followed by private investors at 29.9% and private foreign investors at 14.9% (Indian states by economic freedom, 2018). Interestingly, at Tuticorin port, there is rail connectivity from the port but its single lane is up to 17.5 km till Milavattan which limits its capacity and reduces dependency. The capacity and bottlenecks analysis for ports is assessed to find maximum port infrastructure capacity for cargo handling. Driving the growth of port with induced port development, four basic parameters namely ground storage area, berth length requirement, hinterland connectivity, number of vessels and their capacity give comprehensive opportunity to look into different avenues of container traffic, average turn around time, storage utilization and number of vessels handled were 143 tonnes (lakhs) 43% of containers & 25% of coal traffic handled. The port also saw a steady rise in the total number of containers that 55 lakhs containers were handled in 2017-2018 where 73 lakhs containers were handled in 2019-2020. , it was envisioned to make Tuticorin Port the most Preferable distribution hub of India in terms of cargo handling, with the mission that Tuticorin Port shall be the quality leader in Bulk cargo, General cargo, and the Rapid container pipeline provider for the Indian backbone. To achieve this vision and mission they have the following goals which are to enhance the operating efficiency, investments, customer attractiveness, and strengthen competitive position including better Information Technologies and facilities.
The major competing ports of South India in terms of EXIM are the Tuticorin, Chennai, and Cochin Ports. The Tuticorin Port is better than Cochin and Chennai port in terms of EXIM and scores over Chennai in terms of Infrastructure performance and efficiency. Chennai port has a problem of capacity saturation and congestion, due to which more traffic will be diverted towards Tuticorin Port in the future. Also, it caters the direct ship from the EU and USA which is the biggest advantage for Tuticorin Port. It has fewer labor Issues with the workforce in comparison with other ports which are nearby. The major Bottleneck issues for the Tuticorin Port are higher port dues and charges and improper connectivity to the hinterland.
Performance Scenario of Port Activities
As Tuticorin is a feeder vessel port containing a larger birth, dwarf and terminals to import and export large number of commodities from various countries. As per the Fig 2. Overall performance of Tuticorin (VOC) port, the maximum number of EXIM will be in the year 2018 due to European and the US in a large amount of double-stack containerization (L40) movement served by prominent shipping liners like – MAERSK, MSC and SRS logistics etc. Therefore, the maximum number of breakbulk will be shipped to Russia, Europe and Columbia with single stack containerization (L20) container load to maximize the trade of Import and Export.
Primary Survey Analysis,2020
The profiling of continent-wide EXIM from Tuticorin port shows major exports from VOC are towards UK and US in double-stack containerization of L40 consists of bulk commodities like – Coal, Urea and Salt etc. will be shipped through VOC in feeder and mother vessel. Break Bulk commodities are majorly exported in L20 containers to Sub-continent, whereas a maximum of L40 containers is exported from UK and US/UK.
Regional Logistics Infrastructure – Inland Container Depot / Container Freight Stations
Tuticorin has the maximum number of ICD and CFSs followed by 10 ICD and 50 CFSs that are well connected with major ports and railways/roads handled by the Container Corporation of India (CONCOR). The supply chain of ICD and CFS operations in Tuticorin acts as the containers’ origin or final destination. The chain can be bifurcated for both Imports and Exports as well as for some special commodities which have different supply chain processes than other goods.
The movement patterns of commodities in Tuticorin are varied as per the different strategic locations decided to understand the distribution of modes on routes where it has a high movement of LCV and MCV with 33% and 31% from ports to CFS and ICD. With the losses of 20% in the empty trips during backhaul operations, it can be utilized to increase the efficiency of the overall logistics chain because it leads to loss of potential space and labour.
The Government of Tamil Nadu with a focus on implementing physical and social infrastructure projects that will aid economic development and make Tamil Nadu the most prosperous and progressive state in the country by making a huge investment of Rs. 15,00,000 crore to be made over in the upcoming 10 years. Some of the major factors that would be pushing the growth in the region are Chennai Kanyakumari Industrial Corridor and Madurai-Tuticorin Industrial Corridor, Mannar CEZ, Road expansion projects and Proposals of MSME clusters. The project will be implemented in the Public-Private-Partnership mode on a Design, Build, Operate and Transfer (DBOT) basis or will be taken up by NHAI. The stretches of 2-lane State Highways would be converted to four-lane roads preferably with paved shoulders. The total cost of the alignment is around Rs. 9,000 crores for strategic road expansion program – II in central Tamil Nadu and Rs. 8500 crore for strategic road expansion program – III in southern Tamil Nadu, taking the unit cost as Rs. 6 crores to lay 1 km of road.
A window of opportunity for Tuticorin Ramnathpuram railway line: The railway line from Tuticorin port trust to Ramnathpuram thermal power plant. 25 km railway line which lines for the stretch of 350 km will help in reducing the time taken to travel in this segment which can be reduced by nearly 4 to 5 hours. The segment is one of the busiest stretches and carries a significant amount of traffic.
The national highway 45 till Madurai and terminating into NH 7 till Kanyakumari running parallel to the railway line is proposed for expansion from two-lane to four-lane and also in six lanes in some segments and has been attracting traffic. An investment of Rs. 3000 crore is made for a stretch of 350 km will help in reducing the time taken to travel in this segment which can be reduced by nearly 4 to 5 hours. Madurai-Dindigul through the port is well connected through broad gauge railway link with major cities and with TCD’s at Madurai, Tirupur, Karur, Salem, Coimbatore, Chennai, and Bangalore. The section requires doubling of track between Madurai and Dindigul for ensuring smooth movement of cargo to and from the port. a stretch of 350 km for a time frame of the year 2020. The project will be implemented as a PPP in conjunction with Indian Railways where it will act as an implementing agency for the project and the mode of finance is shared by the State and Central government. According to a Comprehensive Development Plan prepared by ADB, the project will generate more than 4.7 million additional jobs driven by the annual manufacturing output of $222 billion and the 23 districts it covers 64 percent of the State’s area and 70 percent of the total population.
We can say that Tuticorin has the potential to leverage the ease of handling containers and mark their presence in the global traffic operations which in turn integrates the agencies involved in the logistics operations. The road capacity has not been utilized to its full extent and there is huge potential to shift mode from road to rail which makes freight movement economic, efficient and also ensures environmental benefits. The Port authority must focus on preparing a port-oriented development plan that would ensure industrial growth and a considerable shift from road to rail. The induced industrial growth would also help generate employment and help the regional economy. These steps can result in a systemized freight network that will also help reduce empty trips and carbon emissions. These practical strategies will initiate further growth and also motivate stakeholders to invest in this region. Hence these provisions will boost the Tuticorin port region to have an efficient logistics network and induce port-led development which transforms the port to become a global gateway to South India.
This article has been authored by Mr. Yash Pratap Singh (Project Associate – Cities and Transport World Resources Institute, India) and Mr. Pramod Rajendran Naidu (Technical Expert – Green Freight GIZ , India). All views expressed in the article are their own and do not represent those of any entity they were, are or will be associated with.