Venkata Ramana Akkaraju Chairman-in-charge, Cochin Port

POL stands out in the cargo kitty of Cochin Port and its Chairman-in-charge Venkata Ramana Akkaraju has chalked out lucrative strategies for growing the share of containerised, bulk and Ro-Ro cargo as well. In an interview with Sisir Pradhan, Akkaraju details on the port’s performance and its growth and expansion plans

Q What are the EXIM and coastal cargo handled at the Port?

Have you observed any change in cargo profile in recent years? Cochin Port is a multi-cargo port with the cargo profile dominated by liquid cargo, predominantly, POL, at 67 per cent of the throughput of 22.10 MMT in 2015-16; containerised cargo at 26 per cent and dry and break bulk cargo at 7 per cent of the throughput.

Coastal imports mainly constitute POL, cement, salt and Iron and steel. Coastal exports are mainly POL. Cochin Port is promoting coastal movement of cargo: cars in Ro- Ro carriers are moved from Tamil Nadu and Gujarat and Steel from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

Q In the current financial year which are the cargo that have grown in volume and which have registered a fall? How has been the trend for coastal cargo?

 Cochin Port had the target of 24.5 MMT of throughput in 2016-17. The Port achieved a throughput of 23.71 MMT in 2016-17 (up to Feb- 17) with growth of 10.6 per cent over the corresponding period in 2015-16. Increase of 9.88 per cent has been registered in the case of POL.

 POL cargo, is set to increase by 8.0 MMTPA with the commissioning of the Integrated Refinery Expansion Project of BPCL-KR in March, 2017, where the full growth in throughput will be realised in 2018-19. Cochin Port therefore expects to handle 18.0 MMT of POL including crude oil in 2017- 18 as against 13.77 MMT of POL in 2016-17.

The containerised traffic at ICTT is growing currently at 19.0 per cent over the previous year, and is set to reach approximately 4.85 lakh teus in 2016-17. Rebates up to 85 per cent on vessel related charges are offered to promote container traffic. Container traffic is set to cross 5.5 lakh teus in 2017-18. Cochin Port expects to have throughput of 28.5 MMT in 2017-18 which will be about 16 per cent higher than that achieved in 2016-17. There has been a fall in imports of fertilizers, raw materials and Illemenite sand.

Cochin Port has positioned itself as a Cement hub with 3 terminals already in operation and 2 under installation. The annual throughput from the cement terminals would be about 2.0 MMTPA from 2018-19. It is also proposed to develop a floating cement bagging plant and allied facilities with a capacity of 1 MMT at existing berth in Wellington Island.

LNG traffic is expected to reach 1.25 MMT in 2017-18. Further growth up to 5.0 MMTPA and above is expected with the pipelines getting connected to Mangalore and Bengaluru in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

Cochin Port will be commissioning a Multi User Liquid Terminal (MULT) by IOC with a capacity of 4.10 MMTPA in February, 2018, where LPG and POL products will be handled. 45 cruise ships called at the port in 2016-17 and 50 are expected in 2017-18.

Q What are the new vessel calls/ sailing started in the current year?

 Two new services PIX2 & SMILE have started in JV format connecting Cochin with Jebel Ali and Mundra, Kattupalli, Chennai, Tuticorin and Pipapav. One vessel of each service will be calling at Cochin every week. The port has provided rebates in VRC for these services to sustain.

Q Please provide details on the port’s hinterland?

 The Port is a natural gateway to the vast industrial and agricultural produce markets of the South – West India. The hinterland includes the whole of Kerala and parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Moreover, 97 per cent of the total volume of traffic accounted for Kerala is handled by Cochin Port.

Q What are the new infrastructure projects taken up by the port?

The port has initiatied a number of projects to cater to the needs of various business verticals. There has been a physical progress of 95 per cent in construction of subway in front of ICTT and the project is expected to be completed soon. About 65.5 per cent of the construction of RoB at Vallarpadam has completed, and the project is expected to be completed by June.

 Almost 35 per cent of development of the multiuser liquid terminal has completed and the terminal will be commissioned mostly by February 2018. As part of the refurbishment and capacity enhancement of coastal liquid terminal, commercial operations have commenced in December 2016. Meanwhile, works at NTB has been deferred to September in view of BPCL’s requirement for the plant.

 Cochin Shipyard plans to develop an international ship repair facility at Wellington Island. In this project, the Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEFCC had recommended for CRZ and environmental clearances for the ISRF project subject to certain conditions.

 Moreover, construction of multiuser liquid terminal at Puthuvypeen SEZ is under progress. Similarly, a barge jetty is being constructed at Puthuvypeen for which piling work of barge berth is in progress.

Q What is the progress in cryogenic warehousing, tea park, and ropeway tourism?

 A 5 MMTPA LNG terminal and regasification plant owned by Petronet LNG is operational at Cochin Port. Currently, the facility is running at 7 per cent capacity, but as soon as the GAIL pipeline to the National Grid completes, the off take at the terminal will improve dramatically.

 Once the terminal starts running at around 50 per cent capacity, the cold energy available from the regasification process can be used for creation of a zero CO2 emission cold-chain hub.

Cochin Port has earmarked 10 acres of land adjoining the LNG terminal in Puthuvypeen Port based SEZ for setting up the cold storage on PPP basis.

 Meanwhile PLL has proposed to set up a cold chain hub, Cryogenic warehouse which is viable only if the terminal is operating at some minimal load continuously. An area of 3 hectare is proposed for the project.

There are plans to promote a Tea Park at the port which will evolve as a major Tea Consolidation Centre with facilities like warehousing, blending and packaging. Land for the project will be allocated by the port and the port primarily at trade promotional entity like the Tea Trade Association to develop the facilities and operate. The Tea Board has welcomed the move and has assured support to the project.

 A ropeway project has also been proposed to tap tourism potential of the region. The ropeway system will be overlooking the scenic backwaters of Vembanad and total length of the ropeway will be around 3 km and the project would cost an estimated `100 crores.

Q How has been the performance of RO-RO shipping at the port?

 The first call of a car carrier ship, MV Dresden with around 500 cars called the port in September last year. A dedicated berth (Q7) has been identified at Ernakulam Wharf for handling RO-RO ships, and a clean yard of 4,000 sqmt area at Q7 is allotted for storage of cars. The port offers concessional wharfage of `500 per car and `900 per truck, and 50 per cent rebate on notified vessel related charges. A total of 10 RO-RO vessels had called at the port up to February 2017 ferrying a total of 1,902 vehicle units.

Q There has been a fall in spices export in the last few years. Has it affected the Port?

Export of spices is taking place through containers from Cochin. The fall in spices export has not affected the Port since the growth rate of container traffic is around 17 per cent per annum. The containerized cargo constitutes mainly raw cashew, veneers, timber, sunflower oil etc under imports and tea, coffee, spices, marine food products etc under exports. No change in trend in principal cargo portfolio is observed for Cochin.

Q How has been the bunker trade at the port?

 All the oil majors like BPCL, IOC and HPCL have facilities at Kochi to supply quality bunkers of all grades. The port has shown a steady increase in supply of bunkers and had handled 2.26 LMT of bunkers during 2015-16. During 2016-17, up to February the handling of bunkers stands at 2.34 LMT which is 10 per cent more than corresponding period of previous year.

Q As a stakeholder in Vallarpadam ICTT, do you think the terminal is fulfilling its objectives?

 The ICTT Vallarpadam has exhibited a clear growth trend since 2015-16 when the terminal throughput grew by 14.5 per cent over 2014-15. The growth trend at ICTT is continuing in 2016-17 (Apr-Feb) with 17 per cent growth over the same period in 2015-16. The terminal is set to achieve container traffic of about 4.85 lakh teus in 2016-17.

 Even though transhipment at ICTT has remained rather low at about 5 per cent of the terminal throughput, the presence of 4 weekly mainline services at ICTT connecting Europe, Mediterranean and Far East is an important facilitator for transhipment business. This is well evidenced by the large number of mainline vessels calling at ICTT. Notably, there were 169 mainline vessels out of 641 container vessels that called at ICTT during April-February in 2016-17.