Vizhinjam Port: India’s Gateway to Global Maritime Trade

Vizhinjam International Seaport, located in Thiruvananthapuram, is a significant milestone in India’s maritime sector. As India’s first deep-sea container transshipment terminal, it’s set to transform the country’s role in international maritime trade. The Government of Kerala has organized a grand ceremony on October 15, 2023, to mark the maiden call of the vessel at the port which will be inaugurated by Mr. Pinarayi Vijayan (Chief Minister of Kerala), with Mr. Ahammad Devarkovil (Minister for Ports, Kerala), and Mr. Sarbananda Sonowal (Union Minister for Ports, Shipping, Waterways, and Ayush).

The Vizhinjam Port, an INR 7,600 crore PPP Project, is capable of handling container vessels with up to 24,000 TEU capacity, making it a hub for large ships. Overall, it has an initial capacity of 1 million TEU which can later be increased to 6.2 million TEU. With a natural depth of 18 mt, scalable to 20 mt., the Port is situated near the southernmost tip of India, and the port’s proximity (within 10 nautical miles) to major international shipping routes makes it an ideal entry point for the world’s biggest container ships.

Until now, the biggest container ships have been skipping India because its harbors weren’t deep enough to handle such vessels and docking at neighboring ports such as Colombo, Dubai and Singapore. By handling larger vessels, the Vizhinjam may also play an important part in reducing India’s logistics costs and increasing India’s share in international maritime trade, competing with China’s dominance.

Developed in collaboration with Adani Ports, India’s largest private-sector port operator, this project is part of Adani’s expanding global footprint. The Vizhinjam Port is expected to generate over 5,000 direct job opportunities, contributing to economic growth in the region. Moreover, as a part of India’s Maritime India Vision 2030, the government is investing in mega ports and transshipment hubs, further enhancing the maritime infrastructure.

Still, running transshipment container terminal won’t be an easy feat, even for a company with as rich an experience as Adani Ports that has already faced fishermen protests at this site. A rival facility in Vallarpadam, operated by Dubai Ports World, has been dogged by procedural delays.

The transshipment hub also needs to be connected by a network of road and rail links to warehouses and factories in the hinterland. Lack of such an arterial support “can be the Waterloo” for any port, said Mathew Antony, managing partner of Aditya Consulting, an advisory specializing in infrastructure, ports and logistics.

The arrival of the Zhen Hua 15, a heavy cargo carrier from the East China Sea at Adani’s latest mega port not only marks the introduction of enormous cranes at the site but also elevates India as a destination for the world’s most massive container ships. The port will be operated by Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd. (APSEZ), in partnership with the local state government.

While India’s container traffic has lagged behind China’s, the Vizhinjam port, with its substantial capacity and strategic positioning, is poised to enhance India’s role in global maritime trade and significantly contribute to the country’s economic growth. The project aligns with the government’s ambitious Maritime India Vision 2030, which aims to modernize infrastructure and develop world-class mega ports and transshipment hubs.

Vizhinjam Port’s inauguration signifies India’s growing importance in global maritime trade and its commitment to enhancing port infrastructure and connectivity. It holds the promise of reducing logistics costs, increasing India’s share in international trade, and becoming a vital hub for the world’s largest container ships.

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