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Maldives keen to connect with Cochin Port

Maldives imports about $ 1.5 billion worth merchandise annually. Male Port handles roughly 70,000 TEUs annually and Kochi is the nearest port, with only 30 hours sailing time

The regular shipping service connecting Cochin Port with Maldives will soon be available as Cochin is the nearest major port for Maldives.

A team of officials from Maldives Port held discussions with the chairman and senior officers of the Cochin Port Trust (CPT) and International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT), Vallarpadam, on Friday last week.

Maldives imports about $ 1.5 billion worth merchandise annually. The Male Port handles roughly 70,000 TEUs annually and Cochin Port is the nearest port, with only 30 hours sailing time.

A lot of Indian products are being routed to Maldives through Colombo, Dubai and Singapore ports. This is time-consuming and involves higher transportation cost. Hence, there is a scope to operate a weekly service of a 600 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) vessel from Cochin Port to Male.

Regular shipping would mean just-in-time inventory for Maldives, and reduce the cost of imports as sometimes they are forced to airlift items in emergency.

Maldives imports a large number of essential items, including medicines, provisions, fruits and vegetables from India.

The Maldives officials told the country was interested in importing more containers from south India as it is cost effective for them. The main hurdle is the absence of regular shipping service from India, especially from Cochin,which is their nearest port.

According to them, every month 2,200 TEUs were being imported. If 50 per cent of this could be en-routed through Cochin port, it would save a lot of shipping charges. Hence, the country is keen on starting regular service with Cochin.

The meeting also decided to start service of container vessels which have capacity to handle 600 TEUs in the first phase. The port in Maldives has the capacity to handle only small vessels. At least one vessel will sail to Maldives every week. The Customs department would soon set up a container scanning machine at ICTT, costing roughly Rs 30 crore. The DP world also held discussions with companies in Tamil Nadu to attract more cargo to Vallarpadam terminal.

Handling charges at Vallarpadam to be reduced

KK Krishanadas, CEO of DP World Cochin, which operates terminals at ICTT Vallarpadam, was present in the discussions. He confirmed the company had started exploring ways to facilitate regular sailings to Maldives and to promote cargo movement to Maldives Port via Cochin Port.

Paul Antony, chairman of Cochin Port Trust (CPT), hoped the proposed 100-acre Free Trade Warehousing Zone (FTWZ) of CPT would be ideal for the trade opportunity with Maldives.

The meeting also decided to apprise the shipping companies and the business community in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and oil companies of business opportunities and also facilitate faster connectivity to Maldives via Kochi, a CPT press release stated.

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