Revitalization of the historical port of Vizhinjam to entrench the position of Indian maritime sector

The ancient port of Vizhinjam – a historically significant hub for trade since Roman times – is the deepest in the nation with a 72 feet draft and minimal dredging requirement. The revitalisation of the port as Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited (VISL) is believed to be a game-changer for the Indian maritime sector, given the lack of adequate port infrastructure in the country.

The INR 7,525-crore deep-water, multipurpose, international seaport and container transshipment terminal at Vizhinjam, near Thiruvananthapuram, is being developed in the landlord model of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with a four-phase construction based on design, build, finance, operate and transfer (DBFOT).

 Awarded to Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd. (APSEZ) by the government of Kerala, Adani would fund and, among other things, construct berths & related infrastructure, and operate the port for a period of 40 years, which is extendable by another 20 years. The state government shall begin receiving one percent of the gross revenue after 15 years from the date of the operationalisation of the project, which would continue to maturate at 1 percent per year until it reaches the benchmark of 40 percent.

The foundation stone for the project was laid in December 2015 in the presence of then Chief Minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy, along with Union Minister for Transport, Highways, and Shipping, Nitin Gadkari, Chairman of Adani Group, Mr. Gautam Adani, and other dignitaries from the Government of Kerala. Originally expected to commission in 2019, the project got delayed by the clone Ockhi in 2017 followed by the century’s worst floods in 2018, a near-encore in 2019, and the outbreak of the COVID pandemic in 2020. 

Now, as the Kerala Minister for Ports Ahamed Devarkovil and the Adani group jointly announce the completion date of Vizhinjam port i.e. December 2023, and of the entire INR 7,525 crore project (including providing national highway connectivity to the port and carrying out land acquisitions) by December 2024, we weigh the port as a strategic capital of the Indian Maritime Sector.  

Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited (VISL)- a strategic capital to the Indian Maritime Sector 

The world-class, future-ready Vizhinjam port has attracted significant geopolitical credentials in the past few years, given the growing influence of Chinese and Pakistani interests in the neighbourhood.

Centrally located on the Indian coastline, the port is the only transshipment hub in the Indian subcontinent, closest to the international shipping routes. It is only 10 nautical miles away from the Middle East and the Suez Canal, and 28 NM from Colombo.

On completion, the Vizhinjam port, owing to its geographic proximity to the Bay of Bengal, Coast of East Africa, the Middle East, and Strait of Malacca can emerge as a significant competition to the ports of Colombo, Singapore, and Dubai that annually divert 5 million TEUs (twenty-foot boxes) of cargo owing to the lack of comparable port infrastructure in India. 

The port will also address India’s glaring lack of a massive seaport with the required draft for Mother Ships — large ships — to call in the south. It has a aatural draft of 20-24 m & minimal littoral drift. 

Vizhinjam Port offers large-scale automation for quick turnaround of vessels with state-of-the-art infrastructure to handle Megamax containerships. The port, as a transshipment hub, shall be capable of handling the largest mainline vessels with a capacity of 18000 TEUs. 

Being able to handle the traffic in Vizhinjam can prevent huge time and cost overruns for businesses here, as one can move containers to the destination the same day by rail or road. Indian ports annually lose nearly USD 220 million of potential revenue on transshipment handling of cargo originating/destined for India.

Moreover, the port facilitates 2,000 meters of berthing space for containers with a draught of 18.4 meters. Its capacity in phase-1 is to be 1 million TEUs and in subsequent phases, another 6.2 million TEUs will be added, by adding berths which will entail further environment clearance.

With India positioning itself as a credible alternative for china, the port can be wonderful for the Indian maritime sector, however, on the flip side, it could eat into the business of the Vallarpadam International Container Transshipment Terminal which is only 176 NM to the North of Vizhinjam. 

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