In view of the proposed opening of the first phase of the deep water seaport at Vizhinjam later next year, the authorities have begun efforts to develop the Inland Container Depot in Kottayam as its feeder port in the Central Travancore region.
As part of it, Commissioner of Customs, Cochin, Sumit Kumar on Monday visited the Kottayam port and evaluated its operations, including the issues related to the proposed inland water movement project. Alongside, interactions with major exporters and importers from the region were also held.
“This port, the first multi-modal ICD using inland water navigation, has the potential to grow as a direct feeder point to Vizhinjam if it has adequate number of barges and cranes ready. However, lack of support from departments and financial institutions stunted its growth and it is now up to the State government, especially the Departments of Industries and Ports, to take lead in developing the facility,” said Mr. Kumar.
In his opinion, developing the port here as a direct feeder point of Vizhinjam by operating direct barge services will significantly cut down the cost and time of exports and imports.
“With the effective use of the inland waterways, the cost of trade will be cut down by a minimum of 30% compared to road transportation. Additionally, the time involved in cargo movement too can be brought down by at least a couple of days,” he said.
Adequate warehousing space should be developed on the port premises to enable cargo handling at higher levels.
According to the official, despite a slew of initiatives by the Central government to develop inland water ways, no financial institutions in the State is lending support for Kottayam port. Instead of promoting the initiative, the existing bank is imposing very high interest rate and this is indeed a huge burden and hindrance on the promotion of inland water transport.
Lack of acceptance
Due to the lack of acceptance of the Kottayam port by some shipping lines, containers being transshipped to here are now being cleared in Kochi and this forced many of the clients to stop operations here, added the official.
As per estimates, the Kottayam port handled around 1,737 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) containers and collected a customs duty of Rs. 12.93 crore during the 2018-19 financial year.