February 16, 2005

PM's speech at the Foundation Stone Laying Ceremony of International Container Transhipment Terminal

Governor Shri Bhatiaji,

Shri Oomen Chandyji,

Shri Baaluji,

Sultan Solayam

My colleague Ahmedji

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to return to Kerala and to its coast. The last time I was here, it was to share your grief after the Tsunami disaster struck the coast and took away so many precious lives. It is, however, rare that the sea has brought death and destruction to Kerala. For millennia, the sea has been a source of your well-being and progress. The sea has fed you, it has given you employment, it has allowed you to reach out to new worlds and it has brought trade and prosperity to Kerala. I would like to once again express my solidarity with all those families that lost lives and livelihoods in the Tsunami tragedy. I assure you that we will fully support the rehabilitation and reconstruction work. We are committed to converting this tragedy into an opportunity to rebuild a new life for the survivors of the tsunami.

Many in Kerala have lived by the sea and prospered from it. Historians have recorded in golden letters the heroic achievements of Kerala's sea-farers. Over a thousand years ago, boats and traders from the Malabar coast traveled as far as the South China Sea to the East and the coast of Africa and the Persian Gulf to the West. Teachers, traders and travelers from Kerala have gone to distant lands in search of learning and adventure. The ports of Kerala have been our windows to the outside world and our open doors to that world of opportunity.

In more recent times, between 1920 and 1940, Sir Robert Bristow, the architect of the modern Port of Kochi, created the Willingdon Island as one of the safest harbours in the world. However, despite its geo-strategic advantage and despite the availability of skilled manpower, the flow of investment into the Cochin Port and its developments were below expectations. Though this Port received the very first container vessel in India as far back as 1973, further development did not take place proportionately. This moment is, therefore, of historic significance as it will once again enable the Kochi Port to re-claim its position as the Queen of the Arabian Sea.


It is often said that those who live by sea are born with a spirit of adventure, for the sea always tempts one to explore. Some of the most creative and enduring civilizations have lived by sea and sea-farers have constantly pushed forward into the expanding horizon. The people of Kerala have demonstrated this spirit of creativity and adventure in a variety of ways in every walk of life. I am sure you would have heard the story of the first astronaut landing on the moon and finding a Kaappi Kada run by a man from Kerala! The people of Kerala have made their mark at home and abroad. Your record in human development has encouraged economists like my friends K N Raj and Amartya Sen to refer to the "Kerala Model of Development", where social development has preceded economic development.

Our Government's National Common Minimum Programme derives inspiration from Kerala's record in human development. It is this investment in people's capabilities that has enabled you to take advantage of new employment opportunities overseas. Your ability to benefit from the forces of globalisation has enabled the Kerala economy to prosper. There is, however, some distance that Kerala has to travel in terms of modernization of its infrastructure and in generating employment at home. I hope projects like the new port facilities we are now putting in place will create those new opportunities.

Given Kerala's wealth of natural and human resources, your economy has large untapped potential for a higher trajectory of growth. For instance, Kerala can contribute much more in the area of Information Technology, to match its signal success in development of the Tourism Sector. It was here in Kerala that the first steps in the development of India's electronics industry were taken. It is heartening to see Kerala catching up with its neighbours in IT. I am sure you can rapidly script your own success story in every facet of economic development, provided you adopt a proactive approach in taking full advantage of the increasingly globalising economy.

While I am conscious of the concerns of sectors such as the plantation economy about the adverse effects of globalisation, one must balance them against the enormous opportunities waiting to be exploited. Our Government is equally committed to helping you face the challenge of globalisation as it is to helping you benefit from the opportunities it offers, especially in IT, in tourism, in trade and commerce and in the growth of traditional industries like coir, cashew and marine products.


Ports play a vital role in the economic development of our country. Most of our foreign trade involves transportation by sea. Inefficiency of port infrastructure will blunt the competitive edge of our exports. My Government is giving special attention to the development of infrastructure including ports in India. In order to promote new investments in this area, we have set up a Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure to put in place the requisite policy framework to facilitate greater inflows of investment. Similarly, minor ports, which fall within the administrative domain of State Governments, must receive greater attention for faster development. There is a need for coordinated development of major and minor ports. To achieve this, the proposal of the Shipping Ministry to provide financial assistance for the development of minor ports will be given due consideration.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to lay the foundation stone of the International Container Transhipment Terminal. I am particularly happy as I am redeeming a long standing pledge to the people of Kerala. This project changes the future not only of Kochi port, but the entire State of Kerala. The International Container Terminal has immense potential of spin-off effects including through direct terminal-related employment and indirectly, through activities like road transport, warehousing, repairs, training and related activities. The terminal, should act as a Gateway to the world. This ceremony of laying the foundation stone is the first step in realising this decades old expectation of a community focussing on seafaring activities and depending on them for creation of large indirect employment, among other benefits. The nation proudly joins Kerala in celebrating the project commencement of its first global hub terminal. It will place our exporters, particularly from Southern India, at par in logistic competitiveness with their counterparts elsewhere in the world.

The infrastructure created for this project will also provide an economic platform to bring up development of six other maritime related projects such as Port-based Special Economic Zone, LNG/Cruise/Bunkering terminals, Single Point Mooring and a Ship-repair Complex.

The Government of India recognises the crucial role that can be played by the Port of Cochin to generate employment and ensure balanced regional development. It is supporting these projects by rendering financial assistance to provide the road connectivity to the Port of Cochin from the NH 17 and NH 47, and railway connectivity from the existing Edappilly Railway Station to the terminal site.

I am very happy to see that Chief Minister Chandyji has included the survey and land acquisition for providing the connectivity to this Port in his list of fast track projects and has initiated a time bound schedule to complete this process. Our experience has shown that it is not just lack of quality port infrastructure that acts as a constraint on movement of cargo; even related infrastructure like approach roads, parking areas and customs facilitation affects cargo activities. I hope Kochi Port authorities will adopt a holistic approach to the port's modernization and upgradation. The State Government's full support, and the enthusiastic cooperation of whole sections of society are essential for the timely completion of the project with no cost escalation. I also congratulate our Minister for Road Transport Highways and Shipping for the efforts he has put in to the realization of this project.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The success of this project will depend on how well we manage public private partnership. The efficient blending of private sector managerial efficiency and marketing acumen with public sector capital and infrastructure planning should make this project a role model for private-public partnership in the country.

With these words, I commend this project to you and wish it every success. I also wish the people of Kerala a future of well-being, prosperity and progress.

Jai Hind!