Tuesday, Sep 23, 2003
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By N. Ravi Kumar
The Korean manufacturer, senior executives of the Ennore Port Limited said, was in a discussion for evolving short as well as long-term plans for routing its exports, using the facilities at the first corporatised and 12th major port in the country.
The proposal, "in a preliminary stage now", was driven by the ability of the Ennore port to offer vast tracts for the company to park its export-oriented cars.
The clean environment in the neighbourhood and the deep draught in the port also fuelled it, they told a group of journalists from different countries on a recent tour of some projects, which availed themselves of assistance from the Asian Development Bank.
The EPL officials, including the company secretary, T. K. Arun, the Director-Operations, A. Rajagopalan, and the Advisor-Port Operations, S. Veeramuthumoni, said the port had the potential to become a major gateway for export of cars and was in a position to handle large vessels and volumes.
After thermal coal of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board and crude oil of Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited, Hyundai cars were poised to be the third cargo account, for which the two ports would battle it out. While the thermal coal transfer to Ennore was mandated by the Centre on environmental grounds, the Chennai Port Trust (ChPT) did some hardsell to retain the CPCL account, but not without slashing the tariff by over 50 per cent.
Apart from advantages in terms of space availability and the draught at Ennore, Hyundai's move was presumably based on the level of dust pollution in the Chennai port.
Besides spoiling the aesthetics, the dusty cargo caused scratches on the vehicle's exterior, sources said.
While it was not clear whether Hyundai planned to continue car exports through Chennai or make the Ennore port the lone gateway, the proposal comes at a time when the ChPT is upgrading facilities.
Making a presentation to the journalists, the Chennai port chief engineer, V. Chellappan, expressed the hope that the port would retain the Hyundai account.
Without ruling out the possibility of the port offering fiscal incentives to retain the account of the car major, he said, "We are expanding the parking lot to accommodate at least 25,000 and concretising the surface at a cost of around Rs.3 crores", he said, pointing out that a team from Volkswagen had recently visited the facilities in the port. The German automobile major is planning to establish a manufacturing base in the country and is evaluating locations.
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