Visakhapatnam: Every week, about 40 tonnes of finished apparel products from Brandix Apparel’s unit in Visakhapatnam have to be moved to Chennai airport for export to various countries.
Similarly, about 4,000 tonnes of pharma products from coastal Andhra Pradesh are transported to Hyderabad every year in temperature-controlled carriers for export. Even small-time flower traders from Kadiyam in Rajahmundry, known for its horticulture products world-wide, depend on Chennai or Hyderabad airports for their exports.
These and many other exporters from this region, across diverse sectors, are encountering logistical problems, del-ays and additional costs for airlifting their products for export. The reason: the brand new international air cargo terminal at Visakhapatnam is yet to take off, even though the basic infrastructure is in place for the last two years.
The terminal is not able to launch commercial operations, as the authorities could not rope in a suitable private air cargo operator to run the facility. Also, absence of facilities like cold storage unit, ground handling machinery and X-ray scanner has made the facility remain idle for the last two years.
“Many foreign carriers like Sri Lankan Airlines are ready to deploy full-fledged freight carriers if the terminal is ready and gets cargoes. Diverse cargoes ranging from seafood, textile, gold and pharma to fruits and flowers from this region can be exported in air freighters from Vizag airport,” vice-president of AP Air Travellers Association O. Naresh Kumar told this correspondent.
Indeed, seafood exporters are keen to airlift some of their shrimps for export to certain markets—today the Visakhapatnam port handles 1.59 lakh tonnes shrimps for export, valued at Rs 9,294 crore.
This has been of particular concern as the Indian air cargo sector, as a whole, is poised to undergo significant growth in the coming years. The international and domestic air freight traffic has reflected a growth of 10.8 per cent and seven per cent respectively during April 2016-January 2017, as compared to the year-ago period.
After inviting bids for the second time last year to rope in an operator, airport authorities received only one technical bid, even though the licence fee was brought down from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 3.5 for a year. Sources said the Airports Authority of India is considering a third tendering process, which could delay the project further.
Once the facility takes off, export cargoes can be airlifted for exports....