Even after the announcement of an operational incentive by the State government for promotion of cargo shipping through minor ports, cargo delivery at the Beypore port is yet to show an upward spiral.
Major importers are of the view that the crisis in the sector can be resolved only with better cooperation from multi-national vessel operators who could deliver cargo at minor ports like Beypore and Azhikkal.
Though the latest Government Order promises vessel operators 50% of the road transportation cost as incentive for container (20 feet) movement between Kochi and Beypore ports, there are less takers for the offer. Even an enhanced incentive of additional 30% to promote the movement of 40-feet containers too is yet to draw the desired attention. What most of them seek is a reasonable incentive for empty return trips as well for profitable operation.
Importers in Kozhikode point out that it is time MNC vessel operators were wooed to minor ports by projecting the lowest cost of operation and better facilities. Expenses for terminal handling, crane, and forklifting facilities and ground rent are now less than the amount charged at Kochi and Chennai ports. As of now, the delivery of a single container from Kochi to Kozhikode by road costs around ₹28,000, which is hardly a viable exercise for native importers.
Munshid Ali, a Kozhikode-based importer and member of the Cochin Customs’ Trade Facilitation Council, says foreign sellers are not against delivering cargo at Beypore as importers demand it citing the facilities at the port and initiatives taken by the Customs Department to ensure speedy clearance. “One operator has even agreed in principle to take cargo from China and deliver it at Beypore. Such a trade will naturally result in lowering the prices of imported commodities. We hope that the State government and the Kerala Maritime Board [KMB] will make effective policy intervention in the sector,” he adds.
Some importers from north Kerala point out that freight charges and congestion at Kochi and Chennai ports can easily be reduced with the promotion of cargo movement through Beypore or Azhikkal. Also, better use of the two ports will help stakeholders handle matters like unexpected strikes or technical issues that may affect container movement at bigger ports, they say.
Meanwhile, port officials here affirm that export and import through minor ports will scale new heights with the introduction of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) clearance facility by the Customs Department. At Beypore, it will be ready for operation in a few weeks, they add.
Besides, KMB has been asked to prepare and implement a standard operating procedure for enhancing port productivity and reducing turnaround time of vessels at ports. Operators in the shipping industry consider it a welcome move, which can promote coastal cargo movement and shipping ventures with the participation of more MNC investors.