Chennai Port, the third oldest port among the 12 major ports, is an emerging hub port in the East Coast of India. This gateway port for all cargo has completed 135 years of glorious service to the nation’s maritime trade.
Maritime trade started way back in 1639 on the sea shore Chennai. It was an open road -stead and exposed sandy coast till 1815. The initial piers were built in 1861, but the storms of 1868 and 1872 made them inoperative. So an artificial harbour was built and the operations were started in 1881 and 1872 made them inoperative. So an artificial harbour was built and the operations were started in 1881. The cargo operations were carried out on the northern pier, located on the northeastern side of Fort St. George in Chennai. In the first couple of years the port registered traffic of 3 lakh tonnes of cargo handling 600 ships.
Being an artificial harbour, the port was vulnerable to the cyclones, accretion of sand inside the basin due to underwater currents, which reduced the draft. Sir Francis Spring a visionary skillfully drew a long-term plan to charter the course of the port in a scientific manner, overcoming both man-made and natural challenges. The shifting of the entrance of the port from eastern side to the North Eastern side protected the port to a large extent from the natural vulnerabilities. By the end of 1920 the port was equipped with a dock consisting of four berths in the West Quays, one each in the East & South Quay along with the transit sheds, warehouses and a marshalling yard to facilitate the transfer of cargo from land to sea and vice versa. Additional berths were added with a berth at South Quay and another between WQ2 & WQ3 in the forties.
India’s Independence saw the port gathering development, momentum. The topography of the Port changed in 1964 when the Jawahar dock with capacity to berth 6 vessels to handle Dry Bulk cargoes such as Coal, Iron ore, Fertilizer and non hazardous liquid cargoes was carved out on the southern side.
In tune with the international maritime developments, the port developed the Outer Harbour, named Bharathi Dock for handling Petroleum in 1972 and for mechanized handling of Iron Ore in 1974. The Iron ore terminal is equipped with Mechanized ore handling plant, one of the three such facilities in the country, with a capacity of handling 8 million tonnes. The Chennai port’s share of Iron ore export from India is 12%. However, at present due to Hon'ble High Court's order handling of Ore is stopped. The dedicated facility for oil supports the expansion of the CPCL's oil refinery in the hinterland. This oil terminal is capable of handling Suezmax vessels.
In 1983, the port heralded the country’s first dedicated container terminal facility commissioned by the then Prime Minister Smt.Indira Gandhi on 18th December 1983. The Port privatized this terminal and is operated by Chennai Container Terminal Private Limited. The port is ranked in the top 100 container ports in the world. Witnessing a phenomenal growth in container handling year after in 2009 commenced the Second Container Terminal with a capacity to handle 1.5 M TEU's to meet the increasing demand.
The Port now with three docks, 24 berths and draft ranging 12 m to 16.5 m has become a hub port for Containers, Cars and Project Cargo in the East Coast
Chennai Port is one among major ports having Terminal Shunting Yard and running their own Railway operations inside the harbour. The port is having railway lines running up to 41 Kms, 8 sidings to handle wide range of cargo like Granite, Food grains, Dry Bulk, etc. For handling containers seperate sidings are available.
The Port has handled 50.06 Million Tonnes of cargo volume for 2015-16 vis-a-vis 52.54 Million Tonnes of Cargo in 2014-15. Container Volume increased to 1565130 TEU's against 1551549 TEU's in 2014-15. Physical performance parameters like Pre-Berthing Detention, Turn Around Time and Ship Berth day Output continued to improve.
The existing Cruise Terminal is being upgraded to International Standards as a part of Cruise Shipping Policy. The induction of Mobile Harbour Cranes 100T - 2 Nos is expected to improve the productivity of Cargo Handling of the Port.
Aggressive marketing initiatives are being undertaken to improve the Port Trade, Logistics and also to attract new Cargoes.