The Port of Tuticorin, on the southernmost tip of India, has started work on projects designed to step up cargo operations, especially containers.

Work is under way to link the port with the broad-gauge railway line network in that region. This will enable containers to be carried quickly right up to the port from southern Indian export centers like Bangalore, Tirupur, Coimbatore and Madurai.M.J. Kurian, chairman of the port, told local businessmen earlier this week that the rail link will be ready by next March.

The port also is working on a project to introduce night navigation facilities to help operations. The project, to cost 30 million rupees ($1 million), will be completed by March.

Tuticorin was established as a major port of the country in 1974. The port moved 6.2 million metric tons in the year ended March 31, up 5.9 percent over the previous year.

Lack of night navigation and a broad-gauge rail link and the low draft of the approach channel and breakwater basin have stunted the port's growth. The breakwater basin now has a draft of only 30 feet, while that of the approach channel is 27 feet.

The draft problems have resulted in some ships having to call with less cargo, and have prevented other containerships from coming to Tuticorin. The port plans to spend 1.5 billion rupees on deepening the draft to 35 feet.

Tuticorin is near ocean shipping routes, and the port management wants to cash in on this. The central government has approved plans to increase the general cargo handling capacity of Tuticorin by 10 million metric tons by 1997.

In another development, Sea-Land Service Inc. of Liberty Corner, N.J., has

sent a proposal to the Ministry of Surface Transport offering to take over and operate the container terminal at the Port of Jawaharlal Nehru near Bombay. Earlier, P&O Containers and the Indian R.P. Goenka group teamed up and sent a similar proposal.

The ministry has not made a decision on these proposals. Reports from Bombay said the port management is against giving the more profitable container terminal to private companies while being saddled with the bulk cargo terminal.