Trade moving through India’s Port of Cochin is at a complete standstill as the planned transfer of container activity from the port terminal to the new DP World facility hit a roadblock following labor and legal troubles.
“There have been no container vessel movements during the past six days and the new Vallarpadam terminal is simply idling with eight vessels currently stranded at the outer anchorage for berth,” a shipping line official at Cochin said Wednesday.
He also said the turmoil had forced some carriers, including state-owned Shipping Corporation of India, to skip Cochin calls and reroute vessels to ports farther up the southeast coast such as Tuticorin and Chennai.
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The Vallarpadam International Container Transshipment Terminal, which opened Feb. 11, was mandated to take over all container operations at the port, but the Kerala High Court directed the state and the port authority to retain coastal cargo operations at the Rajiv Gandhi Container Terminal for three months.
The court order came in response to a petition filed by local shippers, who had complained of huge financial losses because of the recent labor action that lasted seven days.
According to local shipping circles, it is not feasible for vessel operators to call at the RGCT for coastal cargo handling and at the VICTT for export-import movements.
While DP World Cochin officials declined to comment, sources said the company is likely to approach the Supreme Court for a review of the High Court’s ruling.
Vessels stranded at the outer anchorage include the Lal Bahadur Shastri, operated by SCI, as well as the OEL Trust, OEL Dubai and OEL Victory, all operated by regional container carrier Orient Express Lines.
VICTT, built at a cost of more than $600 million, offers an annual capacity of 1 million 20-foot equivalent units in the first phase, going up to 4 million TEUs at full build-out.