Ideal destination

Print edition : June 30, 2006

VISAKHAPATNAM PORT HAS asserted its position as India's premier port for the sixth time in a row. -

Visakhapatnam, aptly called the `city with a future', is fast shaping up as the tier-II location for Information Technology players.

VISAKHAPATNAM, known for its numerous public sectors units, has attained a new status as an ideal destination for software units thanks to the Department of Information Technology projecting it as the tier-II location for IT players. Satyam and Wipro have already taken up construction of their super-structures, and other leading players in the field are in the process of acquiring sites. Two IT parks, the first of their kind in India with the status of Special Economic Zone (SEZ), are coming up on the hillocks of the picturesque Rushikonda, 8 km from the city.

The annual turnover of IT units located in the city, which is around Rs.100 crores, will register a quantum jump once the 100-acre (1 acre is 0.4 hectare) IT parks developed by the Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority become fully operational.

Konathala Ramakrishna, Andhra Pradesh Minister for Commercial Taxes, told Frontline that projects involving an investment of up to Rs.50,000 crores would come up in and around Visakhapatnam in the next three years. He said the State government had prepared a road map to transform Visakhapatnam into a mega industrial hub. The projects on the anvil include a private port and an alumina plant on the outskirts of the city, a $10-billion petrochemical complex at Parawada; an SEZ at Achutapuram, a research station of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, a second naval base at Rambilli, and the expansion of the National Thermal Power Corporation's Simhadri plant.

The expansion of the airport by early next year and the installation of night-landing facility will facilitate operation of wide-bodied aircraft, thereby attracting international airlines to introduce flights to Visakhapatnam. In view of the upgradation of the Municipal Corporation to Greater Visakha Municipal Corporation, the construction of an international airport is proposed.

On the tourism front, resorts are being developed in a big way with an estimated investment of Rs.10,000 crores along the 28 km Visakhapatnam-Bhimunipatnam beach road, considered the Marine Drive of Andhra Pradesh. "Once the connectivity problem is solved, Visakhapatnam will not only get a slot in the world aviation map but also find a prominent place in the global tourism map," Prof. D. Panduranga Rao, president, Visakhapatnam Air Travellers' Association, said.

The temple of Sri Veera Venkata Satyanarayana Swamy atop Ratnagiri in Annavaram in East Godavari district is an important pilgrim centre in the State. A unique aspect of the temple is that the presiding deity is in the form of Vishnu, Siva and Brahma. Every day hundreds of couples (the number reaches a few thousands on auspicious days) perform the Satyanarayana Vratam at the temple. The temple Devasthanam has built several choultries and cottages to accommodate pilgrims. Free meals are arranged every day at the temple, says Executive Officer M. Raghunath.

While laying the foundation stone in May for the expansion project of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant at a cost of Rs.8,600 crores, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: "Apart from the shipyard and the steel plant, new magnets of growth have emerged in this region creating a Greater Visakha. Between here and Kakinada near the Godavari, I see a hundred miles of modern industrial development taking place in the years to come. This region, based on its agricultural prosperity, high quality education and excellent connectivity, and blessed with gas and other resources, can become a mega industrial region of the State."

An important factor in Visakhapatnam becoming a gateway to prosperity is the new heights scaled by the Visakhapatnam Port Trust (VPT).

VPT emerged as the first Indian port to cross the 55-million tonne-mark in cargo traffic in 2005-06 by handling a throughput of 55.8 million tonnes. By offering client-friendly handling charges, ensuring optimum utilisation of manpower, and aadhering to international standards in reducing waiting time of the ships, it was able to retain its status as the country's premier port for the sixth time in - a row. As a result, cargoes are being diverted from other ports to Visakhapatnam. With various developmental plans under implementation, the port management is confident of achieving world-class standards soon.

This is sought to be achieved by keeping pace with the technological changes emerging in the post-globalisation phase and adopting an integrated development plan, drawing inspiration from the new maritime policy evolved in 2005.

As the VPT is projected to handle 81 million tonnes of traffic by 2012-13, eight berths in the Inner Harbour are to be strengthened and deepened by July 2008. Capesize vessels with up to 2,00,000 deadweight tonnage (DWT) are proposed to be handled in the Outer Harbour by upgrading the iron ore jetty with the construction of an additional mooring dolphin. The quay length of the container terminal is also proposed to be increased. The port has received requests from prospective alumina exporters to allot captive berths. Accordingly, a proposal to construct two berths on build-operate-transfer basis is under consideration.

"We have also taken up work on the modernisation of the iron ore handling complex and augmentation of logistics to supply chain management. All the projects will involve an outlay of Rs.2,325 crores with additional investments by other agencies," a port official said. With the completion of these projects, the capacity addition would be in consonance with the National Maritime Development Plan, he said.

Another important landmark of the city is the Visakhapatnam Special Economic Zone (VSEZ), spread over 560 acres at Duvvada. All industries located in the VSEZ and all the export-oriented units in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Yanam (part of the Union Territory of Pondicherry) are under the jurisdiction of the VSEZ Development Commissioner.

A WORKER GIVING FINISHING touches to a ring at a diamond processing unit in the Visakhapatnam Special Economic Zone.-C.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

The zone has been developed in three phases. In the first phase, infrastructure facilities were completed in 1995, the second phase comprised facilities in 100 acres (completed in 2003) and the third phase, taken up in 2004 in 100 acres, was completed in 2006. Following the efforts made by successive Development Commissioners, an additional area of 200 acres adjacent to Phase III was acquired.

The actual growth of the VSEZ started with the advent of Synergies-Dooray Automotive Limited, a Rs.130-crore venture with Korean collaboration, for the manufacture of aluminium alloy wheels. The unit began its commercial production in 1997-98.

A sound administrative set-up has, according to VSEZ officials, made the zone a `neighbour's envy' in the globalised economy. Its growth profile suggests that the turnover is registering a steady growth. The exports increased from Rs.435.66 crores in 2003-04 to Rs.583 crores in 2004-05 and Rs.612 crores in 2005-06.

The number of units under implementation speaks volumes about its export potential. There are large projects at various stages of implementation such as Dr. Reddy's Lab, Gland Pharma, HBL Nife products, Showtech Stone, Cornileus Pharma, Sunripe Agro and Xinthe Technologies.

As per projections, the VSEZ will increase its export turnover to Rs.1,000 crores in 2006-07 and Rs.1,500 crores in 2007-08. The upcoming industries are in the field of pharmaceuticals, alkaline batteries and compressed natural gas (CNG) cylinders. During 2004-05 and 2005-06, the investment put together was in the order of Rs.1,000 crores. In the current year, a new record is likely to be achieved with an expected investment of around Rs.1,000 crores.

The success story of the VSEZ is further reflected in the variety of industries coming up in areas such as engineering, pharmaceuticals, granite, iron and steel, food processing, gem and jewellery and handicrafts apart from software.

Apart from widening its base for investments, the VSEZ is also increasing its employment potential. It is likely to provide direct and indirect employment to 10,000 people by the end of 2007-08.

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