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Customs procedural delays pull down Vallarpadam throughput?
January, 10th 2012

If the figures of transhipment cargo handled by Vallarpadam container terminal are any indication, Kochi is steadily losing business apparently on account of the procedural delays.

In fact, the transhipment cargo at Vallarpadam terminal, which was set up primarily as an alternative to other transhipment hubs in the region to make the country's exim trade more competitive, has dwindled over last several months.

The figures available with the Kochi port show that the terminal handled a total transhipment of 16,250 TEUs in April-July 2011, while the volume declined to 850 TEUs in August-December. Moreover, the terminal did not carry a single transhipment container in December.

Last fiscal, the port had done a total transhipment business of around 5,000 TEUs in November-March when it was operating at Willingdon Island.

Port users say that the sharp drop in business is mainly due to the procedural delays at Customs following certain contentious issues with the SEZ authorities over the operational role of the former at the terminal. This has already turned out to be disincentive for the mainline vessel operators with the result that they opt not to do business with Kochi unless the situation improves.

They pointed out that a transhipment container moving to an Indian port or from an Indian port passing through the ICTT is checked by the Customs in the originating port.

If that is the case, further inspection again in the transhipment port is unnecessary and a trade-unfriendly approach. This would not only delay the process of transhipment but is certain to cost the shipping lines heavily in terms of additional time taken at the port.

The decision of the mainline operators not to do transhipment business through ICTT for the time being is likely to affect the East Africa cashew season, which had already commenced.

Because of the situation, most of the lines prefer to tranship their containers at Colombo where the procedures of transhipment are simple and they have better options of connecting to other Indian ports.

Of the total of about 3,000 TEUs of raw cashew shipped from East Africa in the current season, 90 per cent of the volume has come through Colombo for further transhipment to Tuticorin, Kochi and Mangalore.

It may be recalled that Colombo Port does approximately 3.5 million TEUs of transhipment annually.

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