Visakhapatnam Port, which commenced operations on October 7, 1933 with only three tiny jetties and a capacity to handle 1.3 lakh tonnes, is today aspiring to become a transhipment hub on the country’s east coast.
The port, which has staved off stiff competition from neighbouring ports, owes its resurgence to various initiatives such as roping in PPP players for development/mechanisation of old berths, increasing draft in both Inner and Outer Harbours to accommodate larger vessels, removing bottlenecks, bringing down pollution and ensuring seamless connectivity as per the recommendations of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
Managed by the Visakhapatnam Port Trust (VPT), the port now has plans to handle bigger-size cape vessels in order to emerge as a leading container destination in South-east Asia.
The port had a humble beginning in 1933, with the Madras-Calcutta railway line and a feeder line to Raipur putting it on the country’s maritime map. The port, now one of 12 major ports in India, steadily grew in importance due to its strategic location on the eastern coast.
The location of the port gives it the advantage of furthering the ‘Act East’ policy of the Government of India, which focuses on the extended neighbourhood in the Asia-Pacific region. The port enjoys strong trade links with South-east Asian countries, Australia and some countries in the Persian Gulf.
VPT Deputy Chairman P.L. Haranadh told The Hindu that with the collective efforts of stakeholders, they could handle an additional three million tonnes compared to last year in the first half of the current fiscal, and are poised to achieve the target of 70 million tonnes set by the Union Shipping Ministry to emerge as the third largest port after Kandla and Paradip during 2019-20.
He said the simulation tests conducted in Singapore recently showed that the port could handle post-Panamax container vessels. Post-Panamax is a category used to denote large ships that cannot pass through the original canal locks of the Panama Canal. The port is endowed with deepwater basins and has been serving a vast and rich hinterland comprising Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and parts of northern India.
The port faced a herculean task in the construction of the Outer Harbour. Two old ships Janus and Willesdon were scuttled to create a breakwater area in the harbour instead of building a wall in the sea.
The port underwent a period of consolidation with marginal expansion after it faced the ravages of World War II.