India's far-south port of Tuticorin has started a direct container service to Singapore and countries on the eastern sea lanes, significantly cutting down transhipment time and tariff overheads for the importers and exporters on both sides.
Tuticorin harbour, or V.O. Chidambaranar Port, is the second largest harbour in Tamil Nadu on the eastern coast and fourth largest container terminal in the country.
The Indian Minister of Shipping Nitin Gadkari flagged off the first container mainline vessel at Tuticorin on Wednesday. He said the mainline container vessel service will be a game changer in container traffic of South India and will boost EXIM and save transhipment cost and time.
The inaugural was attended by Edappadi K Palaniswami, Chief Minister, Tamil Nadu, P Radhakrishnan, Minister of State for Finance & Shipping and Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping, Chemical & Fertilizers also joined in through a video link.
At present containers from Tuticorin to Far East countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, China and Hong Kong are transited by the feeder vessels to Colombo where they are further connected to the mother vessel.
With mainline call being done directly at Tuticorin, there will be saving on account of the transhipment cost. EXIM trade will benefit and there will be a saving of "approximately USD50 per container" as handling of containers at Colombo will not be required. This service will give benefit to the importers and exporters in terms of saving transhipment cost and transit time.
With the strategic location of the port being so close to the East West Trade route and a draft of 16m, it is poised to attract more mainline vessels and has the potential to become a transhipment hub of South India.
In the last four years, Tuticorin Port has made investments to the tune of INR 15 billion towards improvement of infrastructure with the focus to unlock efficiencies at the port as well as add capacity to reduce logistics cost for EXIM and domestic trade under Sagarmala.
"In order to make the Tuticorin port a mainline port we have redesigned the development project of INR 20 billion and now the deepening of the port would be done in less than INR 5 billion, after which all vessels with draft of 16 meters can call on the port," said Gadkari.
"Tuticorin has huge potential to become a major industrial hub. We are planning to develop a 1000 acre industrial area similar to JNPT in this port. I would also like to reiterate that Tuticorin has been seen by customers as one of the most customer-friendly port and trade in Tuticorin is very enterprising. Competitive port tariff, improved infrastructure and customer friendly approach will make Tuticorin Port more reliable and competitive”, he added.
In his address the Chief Minister Tamil Nadu, Palaniswami stated that today’s historic mainline service to far east countries will boost exports in Tamil Nadu. The initiative taken by the port will support overall economic growth in the state.