Eyeing private investments, Cochin Port revive its outer harbour project

Intended to shift all future port related activities to a new area, the Cochin Port Authority is looking at reviving its once shelved outer harbour project.

The outer harbour project was taken up 7-8 years back with the support of the Indian Navy and it has been put on hold after they backtracked.

“We are now looking in a different way soliciting the support of Kerala government as the port needs their support for its survival”, Vikas Narwal, Deputy Chairperson, Cochin Port told businessline.

Building partnerships

“We are working with an idea to take the majority of port operations to the outer harbour and looking at options to monetise the land pool of Willingdon Island for trade, hospitality and tourism related projects. We are also looking to partner with the Indian Navy, the Indian Coast Guard and Cochin Shipyard Ltd as the project is going to generate a big land pool, also. Earlier, the State government was not involved in the project and we need to factor them for mutual benefit”, he said.

Industries which are operating in marine sectors can invest and start units in port related ventures. “We are also looking at private investments to create the outer harbour in line with the development of Cochin International Airport”, Narwal said.

According to him, the draft restrictions in the port’s channel is hindering developmental activities, posing a major challenge to increase the depth. World over, the average depth in ports has been increased to more than 20 metres to handle bigger vessels. However, there will not be any such draft restrictions in the outer harbour project.

The project cost for outer harbour is estimated to be in the range between ₹12,000-15,000 crore. The port expects to garner ₹5,000 crore by monetising the land in Willingdon Island, considering its potential for tourism related activities.

Of the 35.255 million tonnes traffic achieved in FY23, he said the major chunk constitutes liquid cargo like crude, petroleum products and LNG. However, of late, container traffic is facing a major challenge mainly because of the sharing of hinterland cargo between the ports as well as the focus of other neighbouring ports on container operations.

Natural fit

The outer harbour project approximately 2,600 acres west of Puthuvypeen and 650 acres off Fort Kochi has been conceptualised after studies conducted by the Central Water and Power Research Station in Pune and IIT Madras. The site is a natural fit for a 20 million metric tonnes per annum export-oriented oil refinery or a liquid trading hub.

The geographical location of Cochin Port, close to the international shipping route, also augurs well to make the project commercially viable like that of the same factors which were in favour of setting up the ICTT at Vallarpadam.