Explained: The Significance Of Rs 17,000 crore Container Transshipment Terminal India Is Set To Build At Galathea Bay In Great Nicobar

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There is no large container transhipment port in India and all international container cargo has to go to Colombo, Singapore and Port Klang in Malaysia. With 75 per cent of the country’s transshipment cargo being handled at international ports, it makes Indian industries vulnerable to increase in costs, potential inefficiencies, and congestion issues and creates long-term risks for India’s trade competitiveness.

An Expression of Interest (EoI) for the country’s first mega container transhipment port at Galathea Bay in Great Nicobar Islands is expected to be floated by January-end, a senior official said.

There is no large container transhipment port in India and all international container cargo has to go to Colombo, Singapore and Port Klang in Malaysia.

With 75 per cent of the country’s transshipment cargo being handled at international ports, it makes Indian industries vulnerable to increase in costs, potential inefficiencies, and congestion issues and creates long-term risks for India’s trade competitiveness.

Of the more than 16.1 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) handled at India’s ports, nearly 75 per cent (12 million TEUs) was gateway cargo, while about 25 per cent was transshipped en-route to final destinations.

Out of the nearly 75 per cent of India’s transshipped containers that are handled at ports outside India, Colombo, Singapore and Port Klang handle more than 85 per cent of it. Colombo alone handling about 2.5 million TEUs.

Experts have long maintained that a strong economic case exists for enabling a transshipment hub in Southern India that can attract Indian and regional transshipment traffic from the current hubs, save significant revenue loss, reduce logistics inefficiencies for Indian trade, reduce risks to the country’s export competitiveness and create an opportunity for India to become a large hub for Asia-Africa, Asia-US/Europe container traffic trade.

“This Rs 17,000 crore port will help transhipment of cargo from the entire east coast of India as well as from Bangladesh and Myanmar,” P L Haranadh, Chairman of Syama Prasad Mookherjee Port, Kolkata (SMPK), formerly Kolkata Port Trust, said.

“The EoI will help us seek their feedback from global port operators, maritime service majors and shipping liners. After this process, a detailed Detailed Project report will be prepared for the project for seeking bids,” Haranadh told reporters after a stakeholders meeting.

Asked whether SMPK will be the executing agency for the project, officials stated that now the port has been asked to float the EoI, prepare a detailed project report and seek requests for proposals.

Union Minister of State for Port and Shipping Shantanu Thakur paid a visit to Andaman and Nicobar Island recently to preview development activities planned for the islanders with port-related infrastructure.

Haranadh said, “The government is planning to build a container transhipment port at the southernmost tip of Andaman and Nicobar Islands at Galathea Bay. SMPK will float an EoI from interested investors by the end of January.”

The transhipment port would enable big ships to anchor and raise India’s share in maritime trade, create new job opportunities and save a lot of forex, officials stated.

In the first phase, the length of the jetty will be 1.6 kilometres and will have a capacity of 4.3 million TeUs (Tonne equivalent) containers. Later, it would be ramped up to 16 million TeUs over the years.

India has an International Container Transhipment Terminal at Kochi in Kerala but it has not taken off as expected, Mehra said adding that its scale is much lower than the proposed port in the Nicobar Islands.

The natural depth available at Galathea Bay will be 20 meters. It will offer two geographical advantages — proximity to the busy east-west international shipping route that can facilitate shorter transits and greater economies of scale, along with deep natural water depths that can accommodate the latest generation of mega-ships.

(With inputs from PTI)