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Tsunami-hit Chennai port bounces back

One of the worst hit ports in South India due to tsunami, the Chennai port is now gearing up for more action. The port, which is bouncing ba...

Written by Smita Nair | Mumbai | January 28, 2005

One of the worst hit ports in South India due to tsunami, the Chennai port is now gearing up for more action. The port, which is bouncing back fast, is now expecting the container traffic to grow to 160,000 TEUs (twenty equivalent units) for the last quarter ending March 2005. ‘‘Our actual traffic handled for third quarter ending December 2004 is 1,59,462 — an increase by 19 per cent to the estimated target of 1,34,000 TEUs for the same period. ‘‘The result is due to efficient operations due to privatisation,’’ attributes K. Suresh, Chairman, Chennai Port Trust. The year also will see new traffic being routed to Chennai port due to an agreement between P&O Ports and some shipping mainlines. The Chennai container terminal is operated by P&O since November 13, 2001.

‘‘The new agreement will see vessels which initially used to ship through Vietnam and Thailand directly halt at CCT,’’ says Jimmy Sarbh, CMD of South Asia, Middle East, P&O Ports.

The trade is expected to benefit as the route gets smaller and convenient. The bounce back has not been easy though. The total damage to property, infrastructure and equipment at CPT stands at Rs 12.96 crore. Rebuilding the entry channels and affected areas is expected to incur another Rs 10 crore, according to Suresh.

The National Institute of Ocean Technology, which was entrusted with the work of estimating damage due to tsunami has figured sedimentation of around 2 metres at both the inner harbour (Ambedkar Dock) and outer harbour (Bharti Dock). The port basin has shown some scouring due to the forced currents, and the dock has become deeper due to sedimentation of 3 to 4 lakh cubic metres.

‘‘We must be the only entity to have been benefitted by tsunami. The dock has only gone deeper at the entry points which will now enable us to add additional traffic of vessels with deeper drafts,’’ Suresh added. Trade movement has picked up, although it could not benefit much from additional traffic from Andaman and Colombo, which were the worst-affected by the tsunami.

‘‘The terminal at Colombo resumed functions on the same week and operations at Andaman have been mostly relief in nature, it is too early to estimate the trade benefits,’’ stated Suresh.

The port suffered a loss of Rs 3 crore due to operational halt on December 26, 2004 to December 27, 2004. Around 2,50,000 tonnes of container could not be serviced in the said period, with trade of 15 vessels on sail and 10 vessels at berth affected. The loss due to waiving of marine charges is additional.

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