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India ‘hub’ effort bearing fruit as Cochin transshipment volumes double

Cochin transshipment loads hit some 143,000 TEU between April 2021 and February 2022 out of a total 673,000 TEU. Photo credit: DP World Subcontinent.

DP World Cochin — India’s only dedicated, full-fledged hub facility — is seeing strong sequential traction in transshipment handling.

According to new data obtained by JOC.com, Cochin transshipment loads hit some 143,000 TEU between April 2021 and February 2022 out of a total 673,000 TEU, up from 78,000 TEU out of 620,000 TEU year over year.

Transshipment trade development had been a challenge for DP World Cochin, otherwise known as the Vallarpadam Terminal, since it opened a decade ago. That challenge was due mainly to limited mainline connectivity — a concern tied in large part to high port tariffs — and insufficient gateway cargo.

But a bevy of proactive measures, especially tariff incentives and coastal network expansion, seem to have helped Vallarpadam change its fortunes on the transshipment front. Last year, the Cochin port authority doled out discounts up to 85 percent on its existing vessel-related charges (VRC) for mainline operators connecting Cochin to ports in the United States, Europe, Africa, Australia, and the Far East, as well as for feeder lines, except for connections to and from Colombo in Sri Lanka.

Despite that incentive scheme, calls at Cochin cost mainliners $30,459, versus $18,686 at Colombo, based on a ship that sports 95,366 gross tonnage — equating to 9,365 TEU capacity — and requires a 24-hour berth stay. A sample port call pro forma for feeders at Cochin came to $39,795, prohibitively higher than the $5,870 at Colombo, according to JOC.com market research.

“We are always sharply focused on providing our customers with the most efficient and cost-effective options at our terminal,” DP World Cochin CEO Praveen Joseph said in a statement.

Vallarpadam’s transition into a busy hub gateway is key to India’s larger goal of reducing dependence on Colombo, which heavily burdens shippers at home.

While that’s a mammoth task in the context of such port pricing disadvantages, DP World Cochin appears to be on the roadmap it charted out for growth — targeting some 300,000 TEU of transshipment contributions in 2023.

That said, tariff discounts — particularly in an ad-hoc manner — alone likely will not be enough to vastly change the hub game for India, as transshipment traffic revolves around the orchestration of several other factors, with global carrier relationships playing a pivotal role there.

Located about 300 nautical miles from Colombo, Vallarpadam has been designed to handle 1 million TEU annually in its first phase.

Contact Bency Mathew at bencyvmathew@gmail.com.