Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dedicated the country's first International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) at Vallarpadam Island near Kochi to the nation on Friday, describing it as a "milestone in logistic infrastructure development."
"With the building of this terminal, our exporters can now access mainline containers vessel calling at one of the most well-located ports of India," Singh said after inaugurating the first phase of the over Rs 3,200 crore terminal under the Cochin Port expansion project, making it the first port in the country that can berth very large vessels.
Dubai Ports World built the terminal at a cost of around Rs 1,600 crore. The terminal can handle up to 1 million TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units) of cargo per annum. In addition, another Rs 1,700 crore was invested on providing road and rail connectivity to the terminal.
"The ICTT in Vallarpadam is thus a long-awaited milestone in the development of a country's logistic infrastructure," Singh said.
The Prime Minister noted that the absence of a global hub port and the lack of transshipment facilities had put India's trade at a disadvantage.
"Today, about 60 per cent of India's exports and imports containers are transshipped through ports like Singapore and Colombo. This transshipment through ports outside the country involves an additional expenditure of $300 per container and an extra 7-10 days of transit time," he said.
Singh said a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import and re-gasification facility would also be constructed at Kochi by March, 2012.
"It (ICTT) is a symbol of how public private partnership can contribute to public goods and it will be an enduring symbol of the close ties we wish to build with extended neighbours in West Asia, including the United Arab Emirates," he said.
Stating that construction of the terminal was the centrepiece of a comprehensive plan to develop Kochi as an economic and logistical hub in the region, he said the project area has been declared as a Special Economic Zone.
"A link road has been built to connect Vallarpadam with NH-47 and NH-17. The Railway Vikas Nigam Ltd has completed the 8.5-km rail link that connects the terminal to the railway network," he said.
Besides, the navigation channel is being deepened. This is a challenging task involving the removal of nearly 26 million cubic metres of soil.
The Prime Minister had in February, 2005, laid the foundation stone for the ambitious project. The Cochin Port has public-private partnership (PPP) investments worth $2,250 million lined up.