Thiruvananthapuram | Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, MP today alleged that international lobbies and domestic vested interests were trying to sabotage Vizhinjam Port becoming a reality.
”Our political differences should not provide an opportunity for these forces to exploit the situation and deprive the last chance to make Vizhinjam transhipment port a reality,” he said in a statement here.
Despite having steady economic growth over the years, over 70 per cent of Indias container traffic is being transhipped at ports outside the country, mainly at Colombo, Singapore, Port Klang (Malaysia), Salalah (Oman), and Jabel Ali (Dubai).This is because India had no port near the international sea routes to handle large mainline vessels. As a result Colombo trans-ships more Indian goods than India’s ports.
Most of the major ships carrying cargo between America and East Asia, between East Asia and Africa, and between Europe and East Asia pass through or very near Indian territorial waters. A significant number of these ships either break their bulk at Colombo, Singapore or Dubai.
Vizhinjam is uniquely located close to the shipping routes of Asia-Pacific and Atlantic Rim. With changing technology, bigger vessels (PostMalaccamax and Post-Panamamax) are becoming popular because of their economies of scale. Ships of 18,000 TEUs (and one day perhaps more) are the future of sea cargo.
Typically a vessel greater than 6,000 TEUs in size requires water depth greater than 16 metres which has to be artificially created in most transhipment hubs whereas Vizhinjam has a natural un-dredged draft. Despite having these advantages, for various reasons, we failed to attract a viable bid to build and operate the port in last 25 years. This bid, the fourth in the row, is the last chance for Vizhinjam., he said.
With each passing year, escalation in project costs, the development of rival ports and competition from existing international and Indian ports poses serious challenges to the project’s viability. So we all should understand that it is a now or never situation,he said.
If Vizhinjam’s only credible bidder is denied this opportunity, he will move down the coast to where a red carpet awaits him, in Colachel.
This would neither be in Kerala’s interest nor in the national interest since Vizhinjam is both deeper and better situated than its rival but capital will flow where it is welcome.
It is time we put development ahead of politics and embraced the bid, in the interest of the people of Vizhinjam and its surrounds, Kerala and of India as a whole.
I have spoken to Mr. Adani many times in the interests of Vizhinjam and so has the Chief Minister. Knowing the popular sentiment, we have assured all support for the port’s development if he is awarded the project. Being aware of the political situation in Kerala, he has expressed willingness to come and meet the people of Vizhinjam, the opposition leaders and the community leaders to seek their cooperation once he is selected, said Dr Shashi Tharoor.
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