|Opened||26 May 1928|
|Operated by||Cochin Port Trust and Dubai Ports World|
|Owned by||Ministry of Shipping, Government of India|
|Available berths||9 berths in Ernakulam Wharf and 4 berths in Mattancherry Wharf|
|Chairman||Shri Paul Antony,IAS|
|Annual container volume||365,000 TEU (2014-2015)|
|Value of cargo||17.43 million tonnes|
Cochin Port is a major port on the Arabian Sea – Indian Ocean sea-route and is one of the largest ports in India. The port lies on two islands in the Lake of Kochi: Willingdon Island and Vallarpadam, towards the Fort Kochi river mouth opening onto the Arabian Sea. The International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT), part of the Cochin Port, is the largest container transshipment facility in India.
The port is governed by the Cochin Port Trust (CPT), a government of India establishment. The modern port was established in 1926 and has completed 86 years of active service.
The Kochi Port is one of a line of maritime-related facilities based in the port-city of Kochi. The others are the Cochin Shipyard, the largest shipbuilding as well as maintenance facility in India; the SPM (single point mooring) facility of the Kochi Refineries, an offshore crude carrier mooring facility; and the Kochi Marina.
The Cochin port was formed naturally due to the great floods of Periyar in 1341 AD, which choked the Muziris port (near present-day Kodungallur), one of the greatest ports in ancient world. Ever since, Kochi became one of the major ports with extensive trading relations Romans, Greeks and Arabs, all lured by the traditional spice wealth of the state. The port further attracted European colonialists like Portuguese, Dutch and finally British who extended their supremacy over the Kingdom of Cochin and the port city of Fort Kochi. The traditional port was near Mattancherry (which still continues as Mattancherry Wharf).
The need of a modern port was first felt by Lord Willingdon during his governorship of Madras Province of British India. The opening of the Suez Canal made several ships pass near the west coast and he felt the necessity of modern port in the southern part. He selected the newly joined Sir Robert Bristow who was a leading British harbor engineer with extensive experience with maintenance of the Suez Canal. Bristow took the charge of chief engineer of Kochi Kingdom's Port Department in 1920. Ever since then, he and his team were actively involved in making a greenfield port. After studying the sea currents, observing tidal conditions and conducting experiments, he was convinced about the feasibility of developing Kochi. He believed that Kochi could become the safest harbour if the ships entered the inner channel.
The challenge before the engineers was a rock-like sandbar that stood across the opening of the Kochi backwaters into the sea. It was a formidable ridge of heavy and densely packed sand that prevented the entry of all ships requiring more than eight or nine feet of water. It was thought that the removal of the sandbar was a technical impossibility. The potential consequence on the environment was beyond estimation. The harm could be anything like the destruction of the Vypeen foreshore or the destruction of the Vembanad lake.
Bristow, after a detailed study, concluded that such data was history. He addressed the immediate problem of erosion of the Vypeen foreshore by building of rubble granite groynes nearly parallel with the shores and overlapping each other. The groynes first produced an automatic reclamation which naturally protected the shore from the monsoon seas. Confident at the initial success, Bristow planned out a detailed proposal of reclaiming part of the backwaters at a cost of ₹25 million (US$380,000). An ad-hoc committee appointed by the Madras government examined and approved the plans submitted by Bristow.
The construction of the dredger 'Lord Willingdon' was completed in 1925. It arrived at Kochi in May 1926. It was estimated that the dredger had to be put to use for at least 20 hours a day for the next two years. The dredged sand was used to create a new island to house Cochin Port and other trade-related establishments. Around 3.2 km² of land was reclaimed in the dredging. The strong determination of Sir Bristow and his team was successful when the large steamship SS Padma, sailed into the newly constructed inner harbour of Kochi. Speaking to the BBC on that day, Bristow proudly proclaimed his achievements with the following words: "I live on a large Island made from the bottom of the sea. It is called Willingdon Island, after the present Viceroy of India. From the upper floor of my house, I look down on the finest harbour in the East." The Willingdon Island was artificially created with the mud sledged out for the harbour construction.
In 1932, the Maritime Board of British India declared the Port of Cochin as a major port. The port was opened to all vessels up to 30 feet draught. During the World War II, the port was taken over by the Royal Navy to accommodate military cruisers and war ships. It was returned to civil authorities on 19 May 1945. After Independence, the port was taken over by the government of India. In 1964, the administration of the port got vested in a Board of Trustees under the Major Port Trusts Act. The port was listed as one of the 12 major ports of India. The strategic importance of Cochin during the World Wars was an immediate reason for the construction of the harbour. This has helped especially to resist the Japanese threat during the Second World War. The harbour building during the inter-War period was crucial in the shaping of Cochin as a modern urban space that reorganised the local caste and labour relations. According to a recent study, "[t]the 20-year long project appropriated, modified, or undermined existing social institutions of labour recruitment, work processes, skills and local technologies. The large-scale appropriation and modification of local skills and labour recruitment and work process in this colonial project produced a space of disparity by reinforcing the pre-capitalist caste-based corecive labour relations. The project also involved a massive destruction and appropriation of the social spaces of the urban poor."
Cochin Port Trust is an autonomous body under the government of India and is managed by Board of Trustees constituted by the government. The board is headed by the chairman who acts as the chief executive officer. The government may from time to time nominate the trustees in the Board representing various interests. The chairman is assisted by the deputy chairman who in turn is assisted by department heads and officials of the following port departments:
- General Administration
- Civil Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
The entrance to the Port of Cochin is through the Cochin Gut between the peninsular headland Vypeen and Fort Kochi. The port limits extend up to the entire backwaters and the connecting creeks and channels. The approach channel to the Cochin Gut is about 1000-metre long with a designed width of 200 meters and maintained dredged depth of 13.8 meters (now dredging for 18 meters for ICTT).
From the gut, the channel divides into Mattancherry and Ernakulam channels, leading west and east of Willingdon Island respectively. Berthing facilities for ships have been provided in the form of wharves, berths, jetties and stream moorings alongside these channels.
A draft of 38 ft is maintained in the Ernakulam channel along with berthing facilities, which enables the port to bring in larger vessels. In the Mattancherry channel a draft of 30 ft is maintained. The port provides round-the-clock pilotage to ships subject to certain restrictions on the size and draft. There is an efficient network of railways, roads, waterways and airways, connecting the Cochin Port with the hinterland centers spread over the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Facilities for supply of water and bunkering to vessels are available.
The CPT launched E-Thuramukham, a comprehensive enterprise resource planning implementation programme, becoming the first Indian port to do so. The project is based on SAP platform and will be customized by Tata Consultancy Services.
Maritime Heritage Museum-The Cochin Port Trust has set up a Maritime Heritage Museum in Willingdon Island where a good collection of unique and rare navigational equipments and photographs connected with the saga of construction of Cochin Port during 1920-40 period are on display. The exhibits reveal the hardships faced by Sir Robert Bristow and his workforce, who developed the port amidst financial constraints and without technology support.
- "India’s major ports see 6.7 percent growth in container volumes". JOC.com. 7 April 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
- "75 years ago, Cochin Port happened". Metro Plus Kochi. The Hindu. Retrieved 11 January 2006.
- Justin Mathew 2015. "Port Building and Urban Modernity: Cochin, 1920-45", p. 88 in Satheese Chandra Bose and Shiju Sam Varughese (eds.). Kerala Modernity: Ideas, Spaces and Practices in Transition. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, pp. 74-91.
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