Chennai: An assurance on job creation and development of the region by ensuring that the port at the coastal town of Colachel in Kanyakumari district in the state is developed has assumed serious proportions.
While the port has become a matter of prestige for the BJP that is keen on delivering on its promise, the port is an emotive issue for the fishermen in the coastal hamlets abutting the Arabian Sea who fear massive displacement due to the port project. The Narendra Modi government appears to focus more on the Colachel port project as part of its assurance on creating one crore jobs in five years’ time through port development in India.
The opposition to the project has raised concerns over the prospects of the project. Quick to assert that the Centre and he were determined to take steps to establish the port, Union minister of state for road transport, highways and shipping, Pon Radhakrishnan accused the DMK and Congress of “instigating” the innocent fishermen against the project. He had even offered to step down if the project does not come up.
Apart from its tourism potential, Colachel, according to sources, could overtake the Vizhinjam port in Kerala and could even rival the ports in Sri Lanka. The town is also replete with history. It saw an acrimonious battle between the erstwhile Travancore forces and the Dutch East India Company’s navy which attempted to capture the Indian kingdom. But in the 1729–1758 battle, the naval fleet suffered excruciating defeat at the hands of the Travancore forces.
According to a report by two global management consulting firms in Typsa Group and Boston Consulting Group, the new deep-sea container transshipment terminal proposed at Colachel, on the southwestern coast of India, should be able to capture a significant portion of domestic cargo currently relayed over other hub ports in the region, especially Sri Lanka’s Colombo port. The report also found that transshipment traffic via the proposed facility should go up from 7,00,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units in 2020 to 2.8 million TEUs by 2025 and to 3.9 million TEUs by 2030.
The V.O. Chidambaranar Port Trust, also known as Tuticorin, had engaged the consulting consortium to determine the location and design of the new terminal and also to evaluate the long term viability of the project. The study recommended that the project be set up at Enayam, near Colachel, which offers a natural water depth of 20 meters (about 66 feet) and is close to the busy Suez route.
The port will mainly accommodate containers and operate largely as a hub, leveraging its location on the international trade route between countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe, the feasibility report said.