Today that coveted title is hotly contested by two Asian ports - Singapore and Yanshan. While the former is familiar to us, the latter is a relative newcomer - it's been in existence for all of three years now! National Geographic Channel carried a one hour program on Yanshan yesterday, it made for interesting viewing. The facts were incredible.
- Yanshan is the new port being developed near Shanghai to cater to the container traffic of the commercial capital of China.
- Yanshan port is an artificially created island, located 32 Kms offshore.
- The cost of the port when it is completed in 2020 will be nearly $ 20 Billion (Rs 80,000 Crores)!!!
- The port necessitated the construction of the world's second longest sea crossing bridge, a whopping 32 Km long.
- Yanshan will have nearly 30 Km of quay and can handle 50 of the world's largest container ships.
- At full development, Yanshan will handle over 25 million TEUs a year and be the world's busiest container port.
One would be forced to wonder why the Chinese built a port 32 Kms out to sea, the distance from Trivandrum to Varkala?
The answer is simple, the one parameter which determines whether a port can become be classified minor, major or truely world-class - draught!
The congested Shanghai port, an estuarine port like Kolkata or Cochin, could not attain a draught beyond 12-14 m, despite dredging millions of cubic meters of silt a year.
Yanshan, built 32 m out to sea, still manages a draft of only about 16 m or so, which is barely enough to accomodate ships of 10-12,000 TEU - the largest sailing today.
However, ships of upto 18,000 TEU are under design today and it is estimated that ships of over 10,000 TEUs will account for a major share of container traffic by 2015.
Even Yanshan will find it tough to accommodate these behemoths. Billions of cubic meters of silt will have to be dredged if it is to even make a try.
Today, long before any dredger arrives, there is 16 m of water depth available just 500 m from shore at Vizhinjam. With the minimum of development, Vizhinjam will have upto 18 - 24 m of draught available in its basin, enough to accommodate ships bigger than the biggest giants on the drawing board as of now.
Need I say more?
Yet I wonder if there is anyone listening.