Will theory go into practice at Great Nicobar and a major new transhipment hub be created? Some view this as a marketplace which is already adequately served especially given firm plans for new capacity already being progressed and developments such as the liberalisation of cabotage which has benefitted Mundra, pictured
India is targeting a high capacity transshipment operation on Great Nicobar, the largest of the Nicobar Islands ruled by India, north of Sumatra. Michael Mackay examines the project
Plans to develop a big transshipment port on India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands seem set to spur competition in the regional transshipment business. The islands consist of two groups of islands at the southeastern edge of the Bay of Bengal.
“It is now proposed to construct a Transshipment Port in Great Nicobar at an estimated cost of about 10 thousand crores (USD133.7 million). The effort is to complete its first phase in the coming 4-5 years. Once this port is ready, big ships will also be able to stay here. This will increase India’s share in maritime trade,” Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister said in an August 10 speech.
What has been suggested, although not yet confirmed, is for the new port to be built at either Campbell Bay or South Bay on Great Nicobar Island. The proposal is for a port with a draft of circa twenty metres that will allow high capacity vessels to berth and off/upload transshipment cargo.
Both sites are in the immediate proximity to the main east – west shipping lanes and are said to offer naturally deep water without a major requirement for regular maintenance dredging.
Great Nicobar Island is the southernmost and the largest of the Nicobar Islands of India, located at the mouth of the Strait of Malacca adjacent to the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
Built on Indian territory the new port will be much closer to the economic hotspots of South East Asia than mainland India which is close to 1000km to the West. Thailand is around a quarter of that distance, at 270 km to the east, with Indonesia, South East Asia’s largest single economy, under a tenth at a mere 90km.
The proposed new Great Nicobar port also complements two of India’s key policies: sagarmala or port-led development and looking to the Indo-Pacific region to increase trade. “Under the Act-east policy, the Andaman and Nicobar island’s role in India’s strong relations with East Asian countries and other countries connected to the sea is very high and is going to increase,” elaborated Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
And further positives are seen. Within the same range is Colombo, which as a port does a significant amount of India’s transshipment trade. There is also Bangladesh where a growing export-oriented economy is stifled by the limited port facilities at Chattogram.
Placed in the context of national and regional transshipment capacity development the outlook is a bit less rosy. Not only is India battling COVID-19 but more capacity in the sector is coming on-line at a potentially rapid rate.
The state government of Kerala has given more time to Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ) to complete construction and start commercial operations on the first phase of the deep-water multi-purpose port at Vizhinjam, which was also to be a transshipment facility. Under a 2015 concession agreement Adani should have started commercial operations by the end of last year.
The state agreed with Adani the project has been delayed due to force majeure events including the pandemic according to local media reports. One recent report – July 2020 – suggests that this ambitious new facility will now open next year with joint venture operations with shipping lines being targeted.
Adani has also seen transshipment volumes rise at Mundra, where it controls four terminals, following India’s cabotage liberalisation. The company has additionally been reported as a potential nominee of the Indian Government to participate in an India-Japan-Sri Lanka partnership to jointly run the East Coast Container Terminal, the fourth at Colombo Port, Sri Lanka.
A lot of transshipment capacity is in the pipeline.