The Maritime history of Chennai started way back in 1639 with setting up of Fort of St. George on the seashore of the erstwhile Madrasapattinam (Madras) from an open roadstead and exposed sandy coast till 1815 with minor port operations. The Madras Port, started its commercial operations in 1881.
Sir Francis Spring, first Chairman of the Madras Port Trust, formulated plans with a long term vision and in a scientific manner, to overcome both man-made and natural challenges. By the end of 1920, the Port was equipped with a dock, later named as Dr. Ambedkar Dock consisting of 5 berths in the West Quay, 1 each in the East and South Quay, 1 in North Quay during 1931 and 2 more berths were added along with all infrastructure facilities during 1940s.
The Passenger station at North Quay was inaugurated in 1958. In 1964, Jawahar Dock was commissioned on the southern side of the Port with a capacity to berth 6 Vessels, to handle dry bulk cargoes and non-hazardous liquid cargoes. In tune with International Maritime developments, the Port developed an Outer Harbour named Bharathi Dock with two deep drafted berths for handling POL Cargo in 1972 and one deep drafted berth with mechanized Iron Ore Plant for handling Iron Ore in 1974. The year 1983, heralded commissioning of the country’s First Dedicated Container Terminal facility at Bharathi Dock.
Today, Chennai Port, the 3rd oldest port among the 12 major ports, is an emerging hub port in the East Coast of India. This gateway port for all the cargo has completed 142 years of commercial operation and glorious service to the Nation’s maritime trade. Chennai Port is one among the Major Ports with multipurpose berths to cater to a wide spectrum of cargo mix and sizes of vessels.
The best in-class infrastructure, strategic location and a pro-active management make it a ‘port of choice’ to the Trade, handling a mix of cargoes like POL, Containers, Cars, Cruise, Edible Oil, Over dimension Project Cargo, Fertilizers and other Bulk cargoes. Chennai Port is a cost effective port with well-established infrastructure facilities, pipe line connectivity and excellent rail/road/sea connectivity.
The Port has performed reasonably well, handling 48.95 MT of cargo in fiscal 2022-23. Among the total tonnage achieved during 2022-23, container share alone is 58% (1.47 Million TEUs), POL 29% and balance 13% through dry bulk, break bulk & other liquid cargo. Port handled 231412 Cars, which stands No.1 Port amongst the Major Ports. The Port is endowed with an Open Storage area along with transit area of 543522 Sq. Mts., Covered Storage area of 58200 Sq. Mts. and transit shed area of 10160 Sq. Mts. to cater to the needs of the EX-IM trade. The capability to handle container vessels with 15 m draft at the Container Terminals enables the Port to handle vessels with more than 9000 TEUs capacity
In spite of the bottlenecks of connectivity, competition from the neighbouring ports in close proximity and the stoppage of coal and iron ore handling, Chennai Port is witnessing a complete restructuring process, largely due to austerity measures. Chennai Port is now focusing on the needs of the trade by addressing the pain points on top priority. The tariff has been brought down and concessions are being offered on par with competing ports.
Recently, Chennai Port has taken various trade facilitation measures like offering upfront concession on vessel related charges for EXIM Container vessels from 25%-60%, additional concession of 5% upfront for foreign Container vessels carrying transhipment EXIM containers. 15% upfront concession is offered on VRC of Coastal Vessels. Concession in VRC extended upto 70% for Coastal Vessels carrying 100 TEUs of EXIM Laden transhipment containers per voyage, 50% for Coastal vessels carrying either 100 TEUs of Coastal Laden transhipment containers or combined Coastal & EXIM laden transhipment containers.
To reduce the congestion, port initiated measures like setting up of a Parking yard cum seal verification facility near Thiruvottiyur, creation of an eight lane gate complex, facility for receiving direct port export containers at CWC Thiruvottiyur, in close proximity of the Port, etc., These measures have reduced congestion considerably and increased the rate of receipt and delivery of Container trailers.
To increase the ease of doing business for the container trade, Port is encouraging the Direct Port Entry/Delivery. Chennai Port and CONCOR have entered into a MoU for transporting of DPD/DPE containers between Chennai Port and ICD, Tondiarpet. Port has extended 80% waiver of Port railway charge i.e., Haulage and Terminal handling charges.
The Port has commissioned two EXIM Godowns for handling sensitive cargoes like food grains. Developed Common Rail User Facility with a loading platform with full rake capacity, west of the Western Yard in the Inner Harbour.
A dedicated coastal berth to cater to the hinterland requirements commenced operations from October 2019. Concreted Paved Storage Yard measuring about 10 Hectares to stack the Import/Export & Break-Bulk Cargoes is available. The Cruise Terminal has been modernized with State-of-Art facilities offering attractive concession to cruise vessel operators based on the Government directions.
Other developmental projects viz., drive through X-Ray container (Road) scanning system which can scan over and above 100 containers per hour has been installed and commissioned. Completed development of railway Goods Shed facility at Jolarpet. Proposal is under process to develop an MMLP (Multi Modal Logistic Park) at Mappedu. A Bunker berth at Bharathi Dock has been developed for an exclusive bunkering facility for the vessels calling at East Coast.
MoU has been signed between Chennai Port and Puducherry Port to augment container and other break-bulk cargo volumes to mitigate the road congestion & services has commenced. MoA renewed with M/s. Hyundai Motor India Ltd., (HMIL) for export of all their cars through Chennai Port. The Port has also signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with KIA Motors along with their Logistics Partner M/s. Glovis to provide tailor made facilities and concessional benefits for the export of KIA Cars from their plant at Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh.
MoI (Memorandum of Intent) has been signed between Ministry of Shipping of Republic of India & Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation on the development of Maritime Communications between the Chennai Port & Port of Vladivostok. MoU has been signed between Chennai Port & Port Authority of Thailand (Ranong Port) with an objective to explore the possibility of the maritime connectivity between two ports.
With the objective of propelling India to the forefront of the Global maritime sector, MoPSW has formulated Maritime India Vision 2030 (MIV 2030), a blueprint to ensure co-ordinated and accelerated growth of India’s Maritime Sector in the next decade.
A crucial aspect in efficient cargo handling is the need for Port connectivity to the hinterland. Road connectivity to the hinterland has improved with the completion of the Chennai Ennore Port Road Connectivity Project recently. MoU signed between ChPA, NHAI, Indian Navy and Govt. of Tamil Nadu, for the New Four Lane Elevated Road from Chennai Port to Maduravoyal and the construction Work will be taken up by NHAI shortly on EPC mode. Road network inside the Port is being augmented through widening of existing roads to improve the internal flow of traffic and to ease congestion.
The Port is fully geared to handle all commercial transactions online through a new Enterprise Business system (EBS). Equipped with Radio Frequency Inter-active Device (RFID) based document verification for EXIM containers, Electronic Data Inter-face (EDI) and Port Community System (PCS). It is also upgrading the security environment and has installed the first digital surveillance system in the Indian Port sector. Chennai Port, an ISPS compliant, ISO certified Port is taking all efforts to handle its cargo in an environment – friendly manner by implementing several pollution control measures.
The Port industry has seen significant growth over the past decade. It is therefore imperative that the port infrastructure be continuously inspected and upgraded to ensure that they function at optimum levels throughout their life cycle. This task not only lies with the ports but with the entire Industry.
Strategically well connected to the rest of the country and to World’s leading Ports, Chennai Port is committed to offer efficient services in an innovative manner and at an economical cost with a user-friendly approach.
Aggressive marketing initiatives are being undertaken to improve the Port Trade, Logistics and also to attract new Cargoes.