India has greater room to grow as a prospective regional power because to the Indian Ocean's crucial role in the maritime world, which accounts for more than half of all seaborne trade. India's force projection and capability, as well as its active participation in aiding in the establishment of peace in the Indian Ocean region, have long been recognised as indicators of its maritime military prowess. On the other hand, the nautical manifestation of the economic phase doesn't leave much of a trace, especially in terms of civilian maritime infrastructure. Strategic thinkers have never paid much attention to India's domestic port sector because of the aforementioned "sea blindness." Large motherships can only be transported through a select few ports in the nation, including Kochi, Mumbai, Mundra, and Visakhapatnam.The numerical mapping of these port facilities demonstrates that west coast ports outnumber east coast ports in terms of domestic container market share.
With a greater emphasis on maritime commercial capability, India's central government is advancing port infrastructure upgrades through programs such as SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region) and Sagarmala. It is only natural for the country to expand its capabilities in line with global ports like Singapore and Colombo.
Did you know? The Vizhinjam International Deepwater Multipurpose Port has been the subject of heated debate since its inception more than two decades ago.
The Benefits of Vizhinjam Port
The Vizhinjam International Deepwater Multipurpose Seaport, also referred to as the Vizhinjam Port, is a port that is still under development on the city of Trivandrum's shore in the Arabian Sea. The first of three phases, which will be developed, is anticipated to be finished by September 2023.
Containers carry the majority of international cargo. Motherships are the largest ships that transport a large number of containers. Despite being a large demand centre and economy, India lacks a mother port or a port that houses motherships. Colombo port primarily serves India's container needs. Singapore and Dubai also meet a small portion of this demand. Now, India pays these ports a fee for using their facilities, which is added to the supply chain cost.
With the completion of Vizhinjam port, all ships bound for India will be able to dock here, which has the added benefit of being close to the international shipping channel. Containers from motherships are distributed to feeder ships, transporting them to smaller ports throughout the country.
As a result, Adani port Vizhinjam in India will be self-sufficient in handling container traffic. Second, this will create a large number of direct and indirect job opportunities. Cities such as Rotterdam, Singapore, and Colombo have grown up around ports. Vizhinjam harbour will provide a much-needed economic boost to south seaport in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
On the one hand, there are concerns about the port's socioeconomic and environmental impact, and reservations about its utility. There are determined arguments in favour of the benefits that would accrue to the state of Kerala and its people in terms of a much-needed development boost and job creation, and arguments that construction will have limited negative consequences.
There is currently no deep water container port for transferring large container vessels to the Indian coast. The Arabian Sea is building the Vizhinjam Port in Trivandrum, which is central to India's eastern and western coastlines. As a result, it can meet the needs of both the west and east coasts. Let us look at some of the benefits in more detail
1. Strategic Opportunities
The Vizhinjam port infrastructure is viewed as a collection of strategic opportunities. According to official sources, the Vizhinjam port will be able to handle the largest mainline vessels as a transshipment hub. Furthermore, the port provides 2000 meters of container berthing space with a draught of 18.4 meters. The VISL(Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited) would help to save money and reduce reliance on foreign ports for cargo transshipment. Furthermore, the port's proximity to the Bay of Bengal, the East African coast, the Middle East, and the Strait of Malacca provides an unparalleled geostrategic advantage.
2. Relaxation of Cabotage Restrictions
Another notable feature of the Vizhinjam sea port is the relaxation of the cabotage law. Cabotage restrictions are aimed at requiring the use of Indian-flagged ships to transport cargo between various ports in the country in order to prevent foreign competition for the domestic shipping industry and to protect national security. The possibility of coastal shipping by foreign-flagged vessels is a positive sign that helps reduce freight costs, cargo pooling, and a quantum leap in tonnage on coastal routes.
3. Convenient Location
Because of its convenient location, the Vizhinjam project has increased utility. It will broaden India's reach into Arabian waters, where there is a high volume of shipping traffic due to the route that connects the Persian Gulf to the Strait of Malacca. This same route is used by the entire South-East and East Asia for importing and exporting goods from/to West Asia (China being the major beneficiary). As a result, it will reduce Indian exporters' reliance on foreign ports for goods trans-shipment, allowing them to save a significant amount of money.
Vizhinjam benefits significantly from its location along the East-West shipping route, which is the busiest seaport on the west coast of India. Because it was designed primarily as a transshipment port, it stands to benefit from increased maritime traffic. Because of its deep natural draught, the port would also help operationally. Most importantly, it has the potential to put India on the global maritime map by stimulating hinterland gateway traffic and creating new supply-chain networks.
4. Military Importance
The port's military implications must also be examined closely. Typically, a security safety by the national navy follows the announcement of any strategic seaport worldwide. So it was with the Gwadar port in Pakistan and the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, when their respective naval branches issued statements about the projects' military potential. The former Vice Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral R. P. Suthan, was vocal about the military significance of the same for the Indian Navy, as it provides an earshot to guard against the increasing Chinese footprint in the Importer of Record. The military signs in the port area began in 2014 when the Navy's fast attack craft INS Kalpeni docked for a two-day public display. The Southern Naval Command had even approved a proposal to acquire a 500m long berth at the deep-sea port for the permanent presence of naval vessels.
Aside from that, allied services were provided on a cost-sharing basis. Reports confirmed the possibility of joint operations between the Indian Navy and ICG (Indian Coast Guard), involving the Indian Army's already stationed lone amphibious brigade. However, the plans have not been implemented, and an agreement was reached on providing a defense berthing facility only during emergency situations.
Pointwise Benefits of the Adani Port Vizhinjam to India
The Vizhinjam Port will benefit India in the economic growth as-
- Located only at a distance of 10 Nautical Miles from East-West shipping axis and international sea route
- Almost nil maintenance dredging
- Operate with full freedom and autonomy
- No social or environmental issues
- No tariff regulations
- Natural water depth of 20 m within a nautical mile
- Located on the Southern tip of the Indian Peninsula
- Central to the East and West coast lines of India
- No acquisition of land is needed for the port
- Scope for development of tourism infrastructure in future due to proximity to Kovalam
- Near to state capital city with human resources, international airport and well developed social infrastructure
From an economic strategic convergence perspective, the Vizhinjam project would shed light on the country's maritime policy's new vigour and fundamental transformation. Apart from addressing domestic maritime sector concerns, the efforts associated with the Vizhinjam port may enable India to chart a maritime course by crafting a strong economic discourse. Thus, the port will prove to be of great benefit to India.
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