Vizhinjam International Seaport Welcomes its First Container Ship – Marshall Island’s San Fernando

Registering a historic moment for India’s maritime sector, the Vizhinjam International Seaport welcomed its first call – the San Fernando – marking the commencement of trial operations for Kerala’s ambitious port project. This arrival sets the stage for the Vizhinjam Port to become India’s first semi-automated port, with full commissioning expected by September or October 2024.

The San Fernando sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands with a capacity of 8,000 to 9,000 TEUs (20 Foot Equivalent Units). Its journey to Vizhinjam started from Xiamen Port in China and it is on its way via Sri Lanka. Arriving in the outer area of the port before 7 am, the vessel was skillfully guided to the port by the harbor pilot. The ship received a grand welcome with a water salute, led by the large tug ‘Ocean Prestige’ and supported by smaller tugs from the Dolphin Series (27, 28, and 35).

Upon berthing, the ‘San Fernando’ began offloading around 2,000 containers, utilizing the services of Vizhinjam Port for handling 400 containers. Vizhinjam boasts of modern equipment and advanced automation and IT systems, ensuring international standard services for the arriving vessel.

The inaugural ceremony for the Vizhinjam Port has been scheduled for Friday, July 12, and will be attended by Union Shipping Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, and other central and state dignitaries. Thousands of spectators are expected to witness this landmark event, signaling the beginning of regular commercial ship services at the port.

The State Port Minister V N Vasavan highlighted the significance of this event, marking it as the start of trial operations which will continue for 2-3 months. During this period, the port will handle multiple large vessels, setting the stage for full-scale transshipment operations. The minister also addressed controversies regarding the guest list for the ceremony, assuring that all stakeholders, including former Ports Minister Ahammed Devarkovil and Opposition Leader VD Satheesan, would be invited for the full commissioning ceremony.

The Vizhinjam International Seaport, a project promoted by the Kerala Government in partnership with the Adani Group under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, aims to transform India’s maritime landscape. The Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), Adani Vizhinjam Port Pvt Ltd (AVPPL), was established for this purpose. A concession agreement was signed with the Kerala Ports Department on August 17, 2015, and construction commenced on December 5, 2015.

Phase 1 of the project, now underway, includes the semi-automated port’s initial operations. Phases 2 and 3, expected to be completed by 2028, will further expand the port’s capabilities, making it a crucial node for international maritime trade.

Vizhinjam Port’s strategic location and advanced infrastructure are poised to attract leading shipping companies worldwide. Large vessels will dock at Vizhinjam, and unload their containers, and smaller vessels will then transport these containers to various ports across India and abroad. This setup will enhance India’s transshipment capacity, reduce logistics costs, and boost trade efficiency.

The successful operation of Vizhinjam Port is expected to bring significant economic benefits to Kerala and India, fostering increased trade, creating job opportunities, and positioning India as a major player in global maritime logistics.

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