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Bonded bunkering brightens Vizhinjam port prospects

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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : The Vizhinjam International Seaport, which generated a record revenue of ₹10 crore through facilitating crew exchange in less than two years, is now looking for providing bonded bunkering (supplying fuel to ocean-going ships) services for ships on international voyages.

Brightening the bunkering prospects of Vizhinjam, the first-ever bonded bunkering was carried out last week on a foreign tug called KIKI that called on the port to ship crawler cranes brought from Gujarat on a vessel to Maldives.

It is expected that the bonded bunkering service could improve the integrated service capacity of Vizhinjam port, which has emerged as a revenue source for the State government, amid the constraints of the paucity of tug boats and other infrastructure facilities. Though 719 vessels including container ships, tanker vessels, and gas tankers have used the facility for seafarers to sign off and sign in over the last two years, vessels opting for outer anchorage crew change off the Vizhinjam coast has recently come down significantly, affecting the revenue of the port. This was after the full swing operations of neighbouring ports after the Covid outbreak.

Ajith Prasad, managing director of Sathyam Shipping and Logistics Pvt Ltd, which did the agency work for the first bonded bunkering at Vizhinjam Port, said, “the ports could earn a considerable revenue by way of crew exchange including port dues, outer anchorage, channel fee, vehicle entry and tug hire charges. But in the current milieu, the port needs to start bunkering services to enhance its international influence. Crew exchange alone would not attract foreign vessels to the port for which we need to provide bunkering, house cleaning, husbandry works etc,” said Mr. Ajith.

Vinu Lal, port pursuer, Vizhinjam, said since the Vizhinjam port was very close to the international sea route and considering the economic turmoil in Colombo, the Vizhinjam port could emerge as a major service provider in terms of crew exchange and bunkering. The port could provide outer anchorage bunkering for ships with the help of a bunkering barge. The private agencies were ready to provide barge service for this, said Mr. Lal.

But it was also essential for the State government to provide other infrastructure facilities, including land adjacent to the coast for constructing tanks for oil storage etc. This would also create a lot of employment opportunities along the coast, as maintenance of the vessel, fuelling, and cleaning of the tankers could catapult the port to a bunkering hub in future, said steamer agents.

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