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Tamil Nadu to give Cuddalore port to a private developer to operate for 50 years

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CHENNAI : The Cuddalore port is back in the limelight with the Tamil Nadu government planning to give it to a private developer to operate for nearly 50 years. The port had become defunct due to continuous silting. However, the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board (TNMB) had spent ₹160 crore on extension of North and South Breakwater; construction of wharfs 1 & 2 (240 m in length) and dredging of approach channel to around 9 m.

The Cuddalore Port is an intermediate anchorage port situated at the confluence of the Rivers Uppanar & Paravanar on the Bay of Bengal. The depth available at the port entrance is about 2.5 metres at low tide time and 3-4 m depth is available alongside the wharf.

The government wants the port to be developed as deep water, direct berthing and all weather port to handle small and medium size vessels and coastal vessels. However, the low depth could be a major issue that could deter the private players looking at the port, said sources.

The anchorage has 8-10 m depth available at the distance of 0.5 Nautical Mile. At present, a total length of 1132.4 m rehabilitated RCC jetty with fully equipped High Mast illumination is available to handle general cargo and cargo from anchorage through barges, the RFP document says.

TNMB will give a license to use the project facilities along with land to an extent of 111.72 acres for a period of 50 years extendable up to 99 years based on mutually agreed terms. The selected port developer has to create the support infrastructures and undertake the development, marketing, operation and maintenance of the port.

The selected port developer shall be given the license to use the waterfront of 3.60 km stretch from the South breakwater for a period of 50 years extendable up to 99 years on mutually agreed terms. The government poromboke land (uncultivable land) of 47.14 acres adjoining the waterfront of 3.60 km shall also be given as part of the concession.

Cuddalore port is an open roadstead (anchorage) Port situated at the confluence of the rivers Uppanar and Paravanar in the Bay of Bengal. Ships anchor at the open sea at the available depth, loading and unloading of cargo takes place by means of Lighters/Steel Barges.

The East Coast Road/NH 45 A is 1 km away and the Cuddalore port junction with broad gauge connectivity is 1.5 km away from the Port.

Import of coal for thermal power plants at Mettur, Cuddalore, and other manufacturing industries with cogeneration power plants in central and western Tamil Nadu offers good potential for the port. For instance, the railway distance to Mettur Thermal Power Station from Ennore Port, through which coal is currently handled, is about 400 km, the document says while dealing on the scope of the project.

The Cuddalore Port is strategically well positioned for the North Central Hinterland of Tamilnadu. This port can be an alternate gateway for north central Tamilnadu and Cuddalore Port will facilitate MSME sectors with reduced time and cost for the exporters and importers, says Ennarasu Karunesan, a Global Maritime Expert, IAPH Regional Director to India.

However, a consultant who did not want to be named, feels the project may not be viable due to the low draft. With the draft available, the port can only handle barges and this could be very expensive in the long run. The port is also sandwiched between the Karaikal port and the Chennai port – that get cargo from the same hinterland.

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