Leveraging the cabotage relaxation, the Cochin Port Trust intends to promote ICTT Vallarpadam as an international storage hub for empty containers.
“We are in touch with shipping lines and terminal operators for repositioning their empties to all major ports and has also enhanced the free time of empty storage in the port from 3 to 10 days,” AV Ramana, Port Chairman, said.
The availability of sufficient space in Kochi is an added advantage and this could attract empties from ports such as JNPT which lacks enough space for storage.
Repositioning of empties is now carried out at Colombo and Jebel Ali Port in the UAE. Besides getting additional revenue, the new business model will ensure Kochi a surge in empty containers that registered a steady rise in the last few years, posting a 29 per cent growth in 2017-18, he told.
Though the Shipping Ministry has eased the cabotage, he said, there are some technical issues with regard to foreign and domestic containers. As per the existing law, a foreign container could not carry domestic cargo due to Customs restrictions. The real benefit of easing the cabotage law will be felt by the trade only when such restrictions are removed, allowing foreign containers to carry cargo in domestic containers.
Likewise, cabotage relaxation for coastal movement of agriculture/horticulture commodities are limited by the prescription that such commodities should contribute to at least 50 per cent of the total cargo on board the ship. This prescription may not be achievable at least in the initial period, especially for larger foreign ships. It is advisable that the condition is dispensed with or brought down to 10 per cent to begin with until the modal shift is established to have higher thresholds, he said.
Meanwhile, Cochin Port Trust’s efforts to become a cement hub have received a further fillip with the shore-based bagging plant of Penna Cements getting ready for operations very soon.
The company has set up a 60 crore facility at Ernakulam wharf to handle powdered cement brought from Krishnapatnam to cater to the Kerala market. The facility will ensure an additional 0.8 million tonne cement throughput as well as a 8 crore revenue a year.
Cement companies such as Zuari, Ambuja, Ultratech are now operating from the port, offering a 8-lakh tonne throughput and with Penna Cement starting operations, the figure may touch 11 lakh tonnes this fiscal, he added.