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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Containers pile up at Chennai Port and the chaos that prevail in North Madras

The need for the Expressway could not be more acute.   Sometime back the blue print for the  Chennai Port – Maduravoyal Expressway was unravelled.  When in place, it will cover  19 kilometers of corridor beginning at Chennai Port gate no. 10 and traversing along with banks of the famous Cooum river, reaching Koyambedu along NH4 and terminate at Maduravoyil. 

Chennai Port is the second largest Port behind Mumbai and centuries old.  Now it is a famous container port growing with the industrial expansion and economic growth of South India.  Unlike many other ports, there is not much of operation inside the Port premises but most of the activities take place at the CFS – extended arm of the Port situated in many places in the city.   The Chennai Port has 24 alongside berths in the 3 Docks viz., Dr.Ambedkar Dock, satabt Jawahar Dock, Bharathi Dock and Container Terminal.

It  handles a variety of cargo including iron ore, coal, granite, fertilizers, petroleum products, containers, automobiles and several other types of general cargo items.  After the growth of container traffic, a second container terminal was planned and tender works given to a Private operator.     The management of the container terminal is also in the hands of a Multinational Firm.   
containers and trucks inside port
empty trucks inside port

Mired with multitudes of problems is the congestion nay not inside the Port which is welcome as it is an indicator of economic growth and Port activity.   The roads leading to the Port are narrow at many places and the areas around the Port – the North Madras, especially Royapuram which has the exit gates of Port are very narrow and congested.

Royapuram stretches from Clive battery (old Northern rampart of Blacktown wall) to Kasimedu – which houses the fishing harbour.  Not many know that it houses the first Railway station of South India and it was from here that the first train of South India ran to Arcot, the then capital of Carnatic region.

Quite unfortunately, there have been road accidents leading to death and a delay  in opening of Gate 2 and 2A for vehicular movement at the Chennai Port Trust resulted in piling up of vehicles up to Ernavur, about 14 km from here.  The life in this area was paralysed and impacted school children, office goers, platform dwellers, business men, factory workers and of course the movement of goods leading to industrial crunch.  For long  residents of this area had blamed Port for all their woes, now they blame the Police for restricting the movement of
containers through Gate 2, 2A and 10 and Corporation and National Highways Authority of India officials on their failure to make the roads motorable.

container laden lorries vying with each other on road

Last month in a meeting of various stake holders, it was decided that priority would be given to evacuvate the improt containers lying inside the port.  In the first week, receipt of export cargo was stopped and stuffing of export cargo at CFS was also brought to a halt.

After  recent spate of accidents and protests of the public,  only one gate was kept open for traffic.  That made the life of driver and cleaner of trucks miserable as they literally live on the truck waiting for their trun to reach the  “O” gate which takes closer to a day.

Dinamalar reports that there are 16000 containers piled up inside the Port  and that Port is levying  upto Rs.5000/- per container as demurrage.  There are demands that this pile-up was caused by inept handling by Port authorities and hence they should not penalise the importer / exporters for their mistake.

After the accidents, in a joint meeting, the ChPT chairman reportedly promised to open Gate 2 and 2A within three days. But the gates are yet to be opened.  The Terminal Operators claim that inside the Port the facilities are world class but there is no proper mechanism enabling regulated entry and exit which has crippled the trade.  

According to informed sources, many export boxes are diverted to Tuticorin.  Even with evacuvation of 2200 TEUs in a day as against the normal 1500, there are still close to 10000 boxes inside.  With more vessels to call at the Port, this problem would only increase. Right now there appears to be only blame game with no guided solution in sight.
The CPT had stated that it would initiate steps to complete the patch work on war footing on EMRIP (Ennore Manali Road Improvement Project) road by the National Highways Authority of India within a month and to take up with Police for protection to drivers operating from Ennore Expressway to
Ponneri-Panchetti Road
till the patch work is completed.

The expressway (Port – Maduravoyil), regulated four lane traffic, coordination with various authorities all are long terms solutions.  The fact that transporters are able to carry a single loaded or two empty containers on a single container is also adding up to the logistic problem.  Parking at ‘O’ gate and decision on Thiruvotriyur parking yard  are also some of the demands by the trading community.

Right now, it is a picture of chaos and calls for some good planning by authorities to ease out the situation.

Elsewhere, the strike of haulers entered fourth week at Egypt.  An industrial dispute of such long duration is bound to cripple the industry adversely affecting the movement of goods.  It all began on 10th of Dec with the drivers of heavy trucks seeking series of actions including take on taxes, restriction on highway driving on two days and for transforming all semi trailers to full ones.   Though the major Union reportedly was not in favour of continuance of the strike, the long inaction was affecting cargo movement.  At the time of posting, it was reported that the trailer owners had put on hold their strike after promises from the Govt. to meet all their demands

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


  1. Good write up with good pictorial description - Prasad

  2. Interesting. I liked it - Paul

  3. Nice one :) can i have ur email address?

  4. Dear Sir,

    Thanks for those words.

    Mail me at :

    - Sampathkumar