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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Tuticorin container operator eyes second terminal

PSA Sical Terminals Limited, the Tuticorin port container terminal operator, hopes to be a natural choice, by virtue of its experience and consistently better performance, for the proposed second terminal project at the port.

"We will be the fastest to get it up and running ... [hence] a natural choice," says John Quok, General Manager of PSA Sical Terminals Limited, which began commercial operations in the existing terminal in 1999.

Sensing more demand for container cargo, which is evident from PSA Sical terminal's box handling increasing by hundred per cent over five years, the Port Trust decided to convert its eighth berth into a container terminal.

Five bidders, including PSA Sical, are in the fray for the Rs.150-crore project.

Speaking to The Hindu at Tuticorin recently, Mr. Quok said the company had invested $35 million (Rs.157 crore) in the existing terminal. The company is a joint venture of the Singapore-based PSA International, the Chennai-based South India Corporation (Agencies) Limited and an individual investor from Singapore.

The company is laying emphasis on marketing the facilities at the existing terminal. It is focusing on improved productivity, better connectivity to key export markets such as Europe and the U.S., faster turnaround of vessels and a work environment conducive to business. Serving as the backbone of the operations are three ships to shore quay cranes and eight rubber-tyre gantry cranes.

One reason for the increase in cargo handling is the abolition of textile quotas. Forty per cent of the cargo come from Salem and Coimbatore, 10 per cent from Bangalore and the rest from Tamil Nadu.

Enough capacity is available at the terminal to meet a surge in the cargo — as against the capacity of 4.5 lakh TEUs, it handled 3.5 lakh TEUs in 2005.

Making the terminal a major gateway for exports are the direct and indirect connections to 35 ports.

Besides nine sailings a week to Colombo, there are services to Europe, the U.S. and China.

PSA Sical is also keen on having a direct service to Africa, which imports safety matches, agricultural products and garments from India. Raw cashew is the key import from Africa.

Mr. Quok said imports through terminal were also picking up. This indicated the buoyancy in the manufacturing sector in south India, as most of the imports were machinery and chemicals.

Source: The Hindu

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