Way back in 2015 the container terminals in Chennai port were facing acute congestion issues when the main project to evacuate containers through elevated corridor to Maduravoyal got derailed in political battle between the Kazhagam ruling the state. Ships bound for terminals in Chennai port got diverted to the nearby Katupalli port.
It was then the port chairman P Ravindran and his team came up with two out of the box solutions to end the problem crippling the terminal industry in the port.
When the container terminals in Gujarat and JNPA were flourishing, Chennai port which pioneered container facilities way back in 1980, it looked like a dead end. Mega container project proposed by the Chennai port had no takers. Tenders were called twice but there was no response from the industry. The project was called off.
The first project was the setting up of a satellite port at Puducherry so that containers can move straight to Chennai port without creating any congestion on the way side including the Port entrance. The other one was a Multi Modal Logistics Park at Jolarpet, the Gateway for containers bound for Chennai port from Bengaluru and Coimbatore. With Railway Board acting pricey on the cost of land at Jolarpet railway station, the project was cut to size as a Goods shed.
Mr Ravindran and his team signed a Memorandum of understanding with the Puducherry port way back in 2017 on the creation of a satellite port. They wanted the service to start the same year. But the project encountered serious problems with the draft available at Puducherry port.
Puducherry port had stopped cargo handling operations for the past several years but when it was doing so, the ships dropped anchors miles away from the port and the cargo handling operations were conducted in the mid sea. They were brought to the port through barges. There was lot of siltation which did not allow ships to berth along side. The Satellite port project was intended deepen the entrance channel and the port so that ships could berth alongside the port.
Tenders were called to deepen the port to four meters draft. The red tape involving the Union Port and Shipping Ministry and the Puducherry government dragged the issue for nearly four years. Then there were narrow bridges on the road leading to Puducherry port which needed to be strengthened and widened.
So what was conceived as a year-long project took over five years to come to fruition. In a related development Cuddalore port about 10 kilometres from Puducherry has also been revived. Two alongside berths have been constructed through a joint venture project between the Tamil Nadu Maritime board and the shipping ministry under the Sagar Mala project. They were looking for a private operator to run and market the port when reports came in a few months ago. In a related development in the area the full fledged Karaikal port situated about 70 kms from Cuddalore has been taken over by the Adani group a few days ago.