Saturday, April 28, 2007

Glassy tower.....

The Varkey Tower is an all-glass clad highrise which is nearing completion opposite the AG's Office at Statue. It is a commercial-retail building and should be in operation soon. Yet another iconic addition to the city's building list.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

It's comes Modern Retail

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The Future Group's mall at Pazhavangadi gets ready to open. Big Bazaar will be one of many formats at the steel-clad mall.

Space University gets final nod

New Delhi, Apr 26 : The Union Cabinet on Thursday gave its approval for the setting up of Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST).It also approved initial investment of Rs. 270 crores and annual recurring cost of Rs. 40 crores into the IIST.

"The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has been experiencing severe shortage of highly talented graduate and post-graduate scientists and engineers during the last few years to take up the challenges of research and development in the areas of space science and technology," a Cabinet release said.

The IIST being set up on the lines of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs),will provide high quality undergraduate and postgraduate education and research programmes in space science and technology.It will also offer integrated Masters in space science with customised curriculum to meet the high technology requirements of the ISRO.

The courses are proposed to commence from the academic year 2007-08, at an alternate campus in Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram.The campus and other infrastructure facilities will be put in place within 24 months, the release said.The institute will offer 150-200 seats annually. The entire expenses of the course will be supported by ISRO in the form of scholarships and assistantships, and the brighter lot would be directly absorbed by the ISRO.

ISRO' speed in implementing the project is laudable. Wish the same were true of projects like the IISER and AIIMS. With the coming of the IIST, Trivandrum gets one of India's most state-of-the-art educational institutions, adding to its already impressive list of R&D and Educational institutions.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Investors flock to Vizhinjam

The Investors' Meet held yesterday for the Vizhinjam Deepwater Container Transshipment Terminal project was a grand success, with a total of 43 international and national majors attending it.

The $ 1 billion project is slated to be the deepest port in India with a natural depth of 18 m and upto 25 m with some capital dredging. To put this into perspective, there are only a handful ports which can boast these kind of draughts across the World - Rotterdam and Tangshang being two which come to mind. This extent of draught is required to handle the biggest ships in the world - currently supertankers (ULCCs) and bulk carriers, and soon ultra-large container ships (of 10,000+ TEU capacity). In shipping, bigger is certainly better because it means cheaper carrying costs.

And all this with minimal maintenance dredging, the periodic silt removal which has to be done at estuarine and riverine ports like Kochi and Kolkata to ensure that operating depths are maintained. Even then these ports struggle to reach 12.5 - 14 m depths, despite massive annual dredging budgets which shackle their profitability and question their viability given competition from deep water ports.

Vizhinjam, to repeat a much belaboured point, is also very close to the international shipping lanes. The proof is in the photo below, entitled "Supertanker crossover"! This makes it ideal as a transshipment port, which is intended to create a hub-and-spoke model of cargo movement. Large mother-ships will have to make minimal deviations from their international routes to call at Vizhinjam. This means they can complete their itinerary of major ports with the greatest speed and lowest cost. This is what makes ports located on major international shipping routes like Singapore, Colombo, Dubai, Shanghai, Miami and Long Beach into transshipment hubs. Vizhinjam is already in the right place for this.

And here are some of the investors who attended the meet:

International Investors include (clickable links):

Indian include (clickable links):

The tender documents are due out in May. The tender will be finalised by November. It will take another 8-12 months to finalise design, obtain financial closure and complete preliminary civil works. Actual port construction is now scheduled for around December 2008.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hanging gardens......

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The main block of the Leela Kempinksi, Kovalam Beach looks like a modern day version of the legendary Hanging Gardens with blooming plants on each of its sloping terraces.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Supertanker crossover

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This is not something one gets to see too often, two giant supertankers passing each other so close to shore. These two massive vessels were a few kilometeres off the coast of Vizhinjam, and were captured from the terrace of the nearby Leela Kempinski, Kovalam Beach (without a telephoto lens)!

The ship on the right appears to be empty and on ballast as it heads to the Persian Gulf to pickup crude, while the other ship is low in the water and presumably full of crude as it heads in the opposite direction.

No Indian port has the depth to accomodate these giants. Only Single Buoy Moorings (SBMs) can handle them. These are already in operation along the coast of Gujarat. In Cochin, for example, the proposed SBM needs to be almost 20 Km offshore to provide enough draft to allow these ships to come in fully loaded. Here, they cruise comfortable maybe 8-10 kilometres from the beachline.

This is not a new revelation, hope the powers that be pay more attention now that the Pre-bid Investors' Meet for Vizhinjam is scheduled on April 17.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Airport in full steam ahead

Trivandrum International Airport (TIA) has notched up an astounding 225% increase in traffic over last year with a host of new domestic and international airlines starting services and existing operators increasing frequencies and destinations. Finally, the State's premier airport has adequate connectivity to major Indian cities as well as destinations in the Mid-East, South Asia, Europe and the US. For a long time, vested interests supporting another airport in the State were rumoured to have laid obstacles in the way of TIA's progress. At least, the pressure of demand at the airport which supports not only the largest city in Kerala but also the southern districts of Kerala and Tamilnadu, has become too great to resist.

However, the pace of development needs to be speeded up. The New International Terminal - Phase I, currently under construction on the city side of the airport, will already be stretched beyond its design capacity when it becomes operational in mid-2008. AAI will need to expedite work on further phases to ensure that TIA can accomodate as many as 4 - 4.5 million passengers by 2010 as Trivandrum emerges as a national IT, hospitality and industrial hub. Hopefully with PPP projects and strong state government support, this aim can be met.

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Civil work on installation of two new aerobridges at Terminal - II (International) is almost complete. The aerobridges are planned to be operational in May.

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Work is on in full swing for the construction of four new aircraft parking bays in the area between Terminal II and the Air Cargo Complex. They will help to handle the rapidly expanding traffic at the airport.

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Barriers separate the operating area from the construction site of the New International Terminal - Phase I.