Kerala: First mothership with 2,000 containers docks at Adani’s Vizhinjam port

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan claimed that Vizhinjam Port will create over 5,000 direct job opportunities and significantly boost the industry, commerce, transportation, and tourism sectors.
MV San Fernando
MV San Fernando
Written by:

Adani Group's Vizhinjam Port, India's first trans-shipment port near Kovalam Beach in Kerala, received its first mothership on Thursday, June 11. MV San Fernando, a vessel of the world’s second-largest shipping company Maersk, arrived at the port as part of a trial run with over 2,000 containers.

The giant vessel was given the traditional water salute following which it berthed successfully. According to Kerala Minister for Ports and Cooperation KN Vasavan, the arrival of the first mother ship would make Adani Group’s Vizhinjam Port rank globally at 6th or 7th.

Those present to receive the mothership included Kerala Minister for Ports and Cooperation KN Vasavan, officials from the Adani Port and senior state government officials. Vasavan said that the second and third phase of the project is planned to be completed in 2028 and it will be one of the greenest ports in the world. The port is strategically located as it is just 10 nautical miles from the International Shipping Route connecting Europe, the Persian Gulf, and the Far East.

The official function will take place on Friday, July 12, which will be attended by Union Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Adani Ports and SEZ Ltd (APSEZ) Managing Director Karan Adani.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that San Fernando departed from China's Xiamen port on July 2, and reached the port after a voyage of eight days. The ship has 22 crew members including five Indians, who will require medical clearance to disembark the ship. “With a total investment of ₹8,867 crore, including ₹ 5,595 crore from the state government and ₹818 crore from the Union government, Vizhinjam Port will create over 5,000 direct job opportunities and significantly boost the industry, commerce, transportation, and tourism sectors,” Pinarayi Vijayan said, applauding Adani Group’s efforts.

Controversial project

However, the project has faced resistance since the time it commenced. Vizhinjam Action Council, backed by the Thiruvananthapuram Archdiocese of the Latin Catholic Church, along with a large number of fisherfolk staged demonstrations outside the main entrance of the multi-purpose seaport from July, 2022. They have been pressing for their seven-point charter of demands that include stopping the construction work and a coastal impact study in connection with the multi-crore project. The agitators have been alleging that the unscientific construction of groynes, artificial sea walls, as part of the upcoming port, was one of the reasons for the increasing coastal erosion. The protests were temporarily called off in December 2022.

MV San Fernando
Ground report: Vizhinjam fisherfolks’ blackflag protest has seven main demands

A draft White Paper placed before an expert committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal said that the coastal erosion at Shangumugham and Valiyathura in Thiruvananthapuram was not due to the construction of the sea port but because of stormy weather conditions. A study report by a team of scientists commissioned by the Janakeeya Samara Samithi in November 2023 however argued that the project will cause more harm than benefit.

The port was slated to start operations on December 3, 2019 as per the agreement signed on August 17, 2015. AVPPL sought the first extension of 16 months in 2018 due to the Ockhi cyclone in November 2017. They had also cited scarcity of granite and protest by the local population for the delay. The deadline was pushed to August 3, 2020. In 2021, it again approached the Kerala government seeking another three years to complete the project citing natural calamities for the delay. In May 2021, cyclone Tauktae had inflicted heavy damage on the infrastructure washing away 176m of a breakwater which was under construction. Acute shortage of granite has also been cited as a major reason for the delay in completing the project. 

In February 2024, a Cabinet meeting approved the government's decision to enter into a conditional tripartite agreement for availing the Viability Gap Fund of Rs 817.80 cr from the centre and stop the arbitration proceedings by both Adani Vizhinjam Port Private Ltd  (AVPPL) and  Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd (VISL), which could lead to further project delays. While AVPPL sought a compensation of Rs 3854 cr, VISL raised a counter claim of Rs 911 cr.  The deadline for completing the first phase was, originally due for December 2019, was extended to December 2024.

MV San Fernando
If anyone benefitted from Vizhinjam protests, it is Adani group: Thomas Isaac to TNM

However, the Latin Church criticised the Union and State governments after its bank accounts were frozen. The church also said that they will boycott the port’s trial run with container ships. Officials from the church had also refused the Kerala government’s invitation to attend the docking of the first ship, Zhen-Hua 15, in the port in October 2023 as several of their demands to protect the interest of fisherfolks remained unfulfilled. The Church leadership had questioned the state’s decision to hold a grand celebration to mark the arrival of a ship carrying cranes from China when the Kerala government was facing a financial crisis. They had alleged that only 60% of the work on the port project had been completed.

What next?

Soon after the official inauguration, the mothership will move to its next destination at Colombo. Many more ships are scheduled to arrive with cargo in the coming days. Friday will mark the official completion of the first phase of the port, which has a 3,000-metre breakwater and 800-metre container berth ready.

Of the 32 cranes required, all but one have come. A 1.7 km approach road for connectivity is almost complete, while the office building, security area and electric lines are all ready.

Among the other features of this port is that it is the first semi-automated container terminal in the country and will also be a global bunkering hub, supplying clean and green fuels like hydrogen and ammonia. Full-fledged commercial operations in the port are slated to begin in a few months.

(With inputs from IANS)

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute