Adani's new mega port to put India on the map for world’s biggest container ships

Opening of the $925m project is being marked with the unloading of the Zhen Hua 15 at Vizhinjam

Cargo vessel Zhen Hua 15 was saluted by tug boats as it became the first ship to be berthed at the under-construction Vizhinjam International Seaport in Kerala. Photo: Vizhinjam Port
Powered by automated translation

Heavy load cargo vessel Zhen Hua 15 is on Sunday set to unload at Vizhinjam International Seaport in Kerala, marking the inauguration of Adani Ports' 77 billion Indian rupee ($925 million) mega infrastructure project and putting India on the map for the world’s biggest container ships.

The Vizhinjam transshipment container port – India's first – is being introduced as a public-private partnership model, with funding from the local state government and private partner Adani Ports, India's largest integrated ports and logistics company and part of billionaire Gautam Adani’s conglomerate, the port's website says.

The deep-sea water port will have a capacity of 1 million 20 foot-equivalent units (TEUs) in its first phase, with another 6.2 million TEUs to be added, it said.

The port is set to “position India as a top global transshipment hub”, with its strategic location on the international shipping route connecting Europe, the Arabian Gulf and the Far East, the company's website says.

Transshipment is when cargo is unloaded from one vessel and loaded on to another, bigger ship at a port on the way to the cargo's final destination.

India's port container throughput stood at 17 million TEUs in 2020, compared to China's container traffic that stood at 245 million TEUs for the same period, India's Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways said in February.

“The upcoming ports at Vizhinjam [Kerala] and Vadhavan [Maharashtra] have natural drafts in excess of 18 metres that would enable ultra-large container and cargo vessels to call on the ports, thereby boosting the efforts to make India the world’s factory by improving the container and cargo throughput,” the ministry said at the time.

To develop global standard ports in India, the country's Maritime India Vision 2030 has identified projects such as developing world-class mega ports, transshipment hubs and infrastructure modernisation of ports at an estimated investment of 1.25 trillion rupees, the ministry said.

The mega-port in the southern Indian state is a boost to the Ahmedabad-based Adani Group conglomerate, which faced fraud allegations by US short-seller Hindenburg Research in January.

The Hindenburg report accused the Adani Group of stock manipulation and improper use of offshore tax havens, as well as raising concerns about its high level of debt. The Adani Group has denied the allegations.

Last month, Adani Group said its financial status remained unaffected despite “misleading” reports.

Overall, India's economic growth “remains robust, driven by a large public capital expenditure push and resilient domestic demand”, the International Monetary Fund said in its Asia and Pacific Region's Economic Outlook on October 13.

The Indian economy is expected to grow by 6.3 per cent in both this year and next, the Washington-based lender said.

Structural reforms will be the key to unlock India's massive economic potential, Krishna Srinivasa, the IMF's director of the Asia and Pacific Department, said on October 13.

“If you want to really exploit the significant potential India has, then I think the need is for structural reforms. Again, there India has made significant strides, very impressive strides, in the area of digitalisation and beefing up infrastructure where the efforts have been truly impressive.

“But beyond that, there could be reforms aimed at improving the business environment, labour reforms, removing trade restrictions. All these go into building an environment which will support investor competence more – more so in India. ”

Updated: October 15, 2023, 8:02 AM