Kerala gives a warm welcome to 1st ship to arrive at under-construction Vizhinjam port

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, after waving off the berthing, said that nothing was impossible for the state.

ByK A Shaji

Published Oct 16, 2023 | 12:02 AMUpdatedOct 16, 2023 | 12:03 AM


Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram gained its own spot on the global marine map on Sunday, 15 October, with state Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan officially welcoming Zhen Hua 15, the first ship at the ₹7,700-crore international deep-water port at Vizhinjam.

In the presence of officials and a crowd of about 5,000 people, the vessel, delivering container-handling cranes to the under-construction port, received a standing ovation from the chief minister and other dignitaries, including his Cabinet colleagues.


The ship that landed at Vizhinjam. Photo: Supplied

After waving off the berthing, Vijayan said nothing was impossible for the state.

“The arrival of the first ship at the port demonstrates once again that any crisis, no matter how large, can be overcome through unity,” said the chief minister. “The new port will promote development beyond our wildest imaginations.”

He claimed the port would “raise Kerala’s standard of living to that of middle-income earners in developed countries.”

He went on to remark that the port would be one of the state’s most important contributions to the country.

The Vizhinjam port is being constructed under a public-private collaboration. The Adani Group is the private partner in developing what will be one of the world’s largest ports when completed.

The project, which was expected to be finished in 2019, was delayed due to a number of land-acquisition issues.

Vizhinjam witnessed violent protests as local fishermen opposed the project, believing it would affect their livelihood.

Related: A divided Church sounds a discordant note on Vizhinjam


Vijayan also stated that various international groups tried to obstruct the port’s development.

“Even as the project plan was being finalised, lobbyists were acting in a way that was harmful to its realisation by stating spurious grounds,” claimed the chief minister.

“Furthermore, certain commercial lobbies were opposed to the creation of the mother port in Vizhinjam because it would obviate the possibility of similar ones elsewhere. The lobbies behaved strangely, but the state withstood their schemes,” he said.

According to the chief minister, the international deep-water multipurpose seaport would be a “game changer” for the state’s infrastructure and development.

He claimed that once completed, the port would handle 1 million metric ton (mmt) of cargo per year, exceeding even Singapore.

Related: Kerala plans to develop global business hub around Vizhinjam

‘One of world’s greenest ports’

With its strategic location — just 10 nautical miles from the international shipping route connecting Europe, the Persian Gulf, and the Far East — Vizhinjam would emerge as one of India’s largest private ports and a significant revenue contributor to the state, according to Karan Adani, CEO of Adani Ports and SEZ Ltd, which is implementing the project through a public-private partnership with the Central and state governments.

He said that Vizhinjam will be the country’s first semi-automated container terminal and India’s first exclusive transhipment port.

Adani envisions it as a worldwide bunkering hub, providing clean and green fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia.

“In addition, Vizhinjam would be one of the world’s greenest ports — a wonderful complement to Kerala’s natural beauty,” he said.

“We are honoured to have the opportunity to contribute our expertise to the transformation of Vizhinjam, which has the potential to compete with world-class ports such as Colombo, Singapore, Port Klang, and Jebel Ali,” added Adani.

“Vizhinjam, with a natural draft of 18 metres, would soon be able to dock some of the world’s largest container ships,” Adani stated.

Related: Kerala has spent ₹100 crore so far on Vizhinjam rehab, says minister

Claiming credit

Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan and Kerala Assembly’s Leader of the Opposition VD Satheesan also spoke at the event.

Satheesan said Congress leader Oommen Chandy, when he was chief minister, was instrumental in bringing the project to fruition.

He added that despite being accused of piracy and selling real estate worth ₹6,000 crore to the Adani Group, Chandy bravely decided to make the Vizhinjam port a reality. “He did not flinch, back down, or give up in the face of such accusations,” he said at the ceremony.

Thiruvananthapuram Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said at the event that the project, which had been stalled from 2004 to 2010, was able to go forward due to Chandy’s leadership.

“During his tenure, Chandy ensured that all research was finished and all Center approvals were received,” he said.

Muraleedharan attributed the project to the Narendra Modi administration. He asserted that it resulted from the current administration’s excellent governance. He also claimed that the port project was revived only when the Modi administration came to office in 2014.

Related: Despondency in Vizhinjam as Latin Catholic Church backs down

Question of rehabilitation

Meanwhile, Satheesan urged the chief minister not to overlook the hardships experienced by fishermen’s families as a result of the project.


The under-construction Adani seaport at Vizhinjam. Photo: K A Shaji

He emphasised that no poor man’s tears should be shed in the name of development and that everyone was responsible for ensuring their rehabilitation.

“Development is necessary, but the common man should not be thrown into slums and cement warehouses for the sake of it,” he added.

Satheesan also said that Chandy was the one who set aside over ₹400 crore for the rehabilitation of fishermen affected by the port project.

Meanwhile, Vijayan said that the Central government sanctioned ₹818 crore as a viability gap financing for the project, which was a first for the construction of a port in the country.

On this point, Tharoor noted that Chandy’s efforts to meet with then-Union finance minister Arun Jaitley resulted in the Centre approving the fund.

Related: As Pinarayi, Tharoor stay away, Vizhinjam expert summit is tame

The first ship to dock

Vijayan earlier directed the tugboats to push the big Chinese ship, Zhen Hua 15, off the wharf and into the docking yard.

The tugboats moving the ship — which was carrying large ship-to-shore and yard cranes — also saluted it in the seas.

As the ship approached the port, fireworks and balloons were set off. Hundreds of people of all ages gathered at the harbour to watch the ship’s arrival.

The Zhen Hua 15, which left China at the end of August, was intended to arrive in Vizhinjam on 4 October, but its journey was delayed due to bad weather along the way.

When it arrived in the Indian seas, it went to the port of Mundra in Gujarat to discharge some cranes before proceeding to Vizhinjam.