It was not for nothing that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a special mention, at the inauguration of Vallarpadam ICTT, of the RO-RO service between Vallarpadam and Bolghatty islands.The first double-end RO-RO vessel in the country for container trucks commenced operations at Cochin. Renjit Nelluvelil writes.
The Cochin Port Trust (CoPT) proposes to establish a Container Freight Station (CFS) at Willingdon Island once the operation at the existing Rajiv Gandhi Container Terminal is shifted to the International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) at Vallarpadam. Among the major problems anticipated is the transportation of the containers between the CFS at Willingdon Island to ICCT, Vallarpadam. The only option that existed for the movement of the containers is through the crowded roads of Cochin. The road distance of 38 km between the two locations can be reduced to 3.7 km by using water connectivity. The CoPT studied the option of movement of containers by water and created infrastructure jointly with Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI). LOTS Shipping, a Cochin-based shipping company, won the 10 year contract through a tender floated by CoPT for ferrying the containers between Willingdon Island and Vallarpadam by Roll on-Roll off (RO-RO) and Lift On-Lift Off (LO-LO) modes. Initially, a traffic of 750 containers per day is expected between the islands. The time for transporting container trucks by RO-RO mode will be 20 minutes.
By creating the water connectivity, the congestion on Cochin’s roads is expected to be reduced to a certain extent. All the southbound containers are expected to use the above facility. In a RO-RO facility, vehicles do not need to turn around to exit the barge. Instead, they exit from the other end of the vessel, saving time.
In its inaugural run on 23 February, Lots Bridge, the double entry ferry deployed the company, carried 15 trucks in a single voyage with containerised cargo from Willingdon Island to Bolghatty as part of moving the cargo to the ICTT at Vallarpadam. LOTS Bridge, used for this operation, is a double end, state-of-the-art ferry, and named so because it acts almost like a bridge. Set up at a cost of Rs 16 crore, this is the first double end ferry operated in India. The vessel has a capacity to move 15-20 TEU container trucks in a trip and 500 TEUs per day. The vessel is on long term charter from a Singapore-based company. The vessel is classed by American Bureau of Shipping (ABS). The Company will add more vessels once the traffic picks up.
The vessel sailed from Singapore and arrived at Cochin on 15 February. After the initial trial run the vessel was placed on commercial operations on 24 February. Once the Channel attains a depth of 3 m, the Lift On-Lift Off operations will begin in the sector.
The author is CEO, LOTS Shipping, provider of RO-RO service at Kochi.