Willingdon Island is the largest artificial man-made island in India, which forms part of the city of Kochi, in the state of Kerala, India. Much of the present Willingdon Island was claimed from the Lake of Kochi, filling in dredged soil around a previously existing, but tiny, natural island. Willingdon Island is significant as the home for the Port of Kochi, as well as the Kochi Naval Base (the Southern Naval Command) of the Indian Navy and Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, a constituent unit of Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
The island is also home for other establishments associated with the port, namely, the Office of the Cochin Port Trust (that controls the Port of Kochi), the Customs Office, and more than two dozen export-import offices, warehouses, a few hotels and business centers.
Name & History
The Island was created during construction of modern Kochi Port in 1936 with the soil dredged out while deepening the Vembanad Lake to accommodate the new Kochi Port. It was named after Lord Willingdon, the erstwhile governor of Madras, who commissioned the project. Robert Bristow, the chief protagonist and engineer for the project, owned the first building on the island. Today the entire land belongs to Cochin Port Trust and Indian Navy.
Highlights: Willingdon Island links Kochi with other seaports of the world and hosts some of the state's best hotels, commercial and industrial offices.
How to Reach: Willingdon Island is connected to Kochi's mainland by road and the railway Venduruthy Bridge.
Willingdon Island contains the modern port, serving South India. The island is an artificial man-made island created from the sand dug out while deepening Kochi port. It has been named after Lord Willingdon, the former Madras governor, who was instrumental in implementing this island project. The main engineer spearheading this project, however, was Robert Bristow. A port hostel was built to accommodate passengers who wished to halt for a short while and it was named the Malabar Hotel.
As per the project's draft, a basic port structure was completed by 1939, just prior the Second World War. A deep wharf, a rail bridge and a road bridge connecting to the mainland were made to provide valuable infrastructure for the local war effort. A naval works was also built on the adjacent Venduruthy Island. When the war ended, those working on island projects were employed to construct landing craft for the expected invasion of Japan. In 1940, a passenger jetty and customs house were constructed adjoining the hotel.
The other buildings constructed nearby include a passenger platform and rail siding. A huge expanse of virgin territory was soon procured by the Royal Air Force, which constructed a large aerodrome there. This man-made isle near Cochin City, thus, became a thriving military base. The Malabar Hotel served to provide quarters to all wartime staff, and soon this building was joined by a new administrative block next door. A new post office, a swanky open-air swimming pool and an adjoining bank completed the facilities.
When the British withdrew from India after independence, in 1947, they left behind an indispensable and significant transport hub. During its short colonial tenure, the Willingdon Island in Cochin handled almost one million tons of freight. By the year 1960, the traffic had almost doubled. It is a major artificial port in India and a landmark in the Kochi city of Kerala. Willingdon Island also serves as a link between India and some other seaports of the world.
The idea of developing a new port in Kochi was first felt by Sir Robert Bristow, who was appointed by Lord Willingdon, then-the Governor of Madras Presidency, to create a new modern port on the West coast of India at Kochi.
The first liner, which belonged to the Bibby Line, arrived at the island on the 9 March 1935. A port hostel had been purposely built to accommodate any passengers who wished to rest for a few nights. The hostel was soon afterwards named the Malabar Hotel.
All the pre-planned basic port structure was completed in 1939, just in time for the Second World War. A deep wharf, a rail bridge and a road bridge to the mainland provided valuable infrastructure for the local war effort. A naval works was also constructed on the adjacent Venduruthy Island to the south, where, by the end of the war, they were busily constructing landing craft for the presumed invasion of Japan. In 1940 a passenger jetty and customs house were built adjoining the hotel, together with a passenger platform and rail siding.
The Royal Air Force quickly found use for this flat expanse of conveniently located virgin territory, and constructed a large aerodrome. The artificial isle thus became a thriving military base. The Malabar Hotel provided quarters for all the wartime staff and the building gained a new administrative block next door to it. A new post office, an open-air swimming-bath between the hotel and offices, and a branch bank adjoining both, completed the amenities. When the British withdrew in 1947 they left behind an indispensable and significant transport hub. During its short colonial tenure the island had handled at most one million tons of freight, by 1960 this had almost doubled. The island aerodrome was extensively developed and became the city’s modern airport. Nowadays Cochin has an international Airport at Nedumbassery, 30 km north-east of the twin-city Cochin/Ernakulam. The remaining space on the island was quickly utilized in the 1950s, and far from being an unnatural appendage of the picturesque and ancient city, the isle, left behind by the British so soon after its completion, became the commercial heart of the ancient metropolis of Cochin.
It is a major port in India, and a landmark in the city of Kochi, Kerala. It serves as a link between the other sea ports of the world. Willingdon Island is connected to the mainland by the road and railway Venduruthy Bridge. Southern Naval headquarters is located at this charming island. Cochin shipyard is also located near this island. It is also a major tourist center. Willingdon Island today plays an important role in the city of Kochi and houses some of the district's best hotels, commercial and industrial offices.
Apart from these, it is here that the airport used to be positioned (until it was moved to present location in Nedumbassery near Kochi) along with the shipbuilding yard, wharf, the Southern Naval Command Headquarters and the customs house. Cochin Chamber of Commerce and Industries has been strategically placed here, as is the Government of India Tourist Information Office in the vicinity of the airport. This island is a hub of activity with a number of offices, branches of national and international banks, travel agencies and souvenir shop warehouses and one cannot possibly miss visiting the place while being in the city of Kochi.
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