From Tuticorin, A Logistics Wizard Takes Wing

From glass to granite, they move everything, smartly and quickly, over long distances, in and out of the ship's hold. They do everything a ship may need at its port of call.

Giving logistical support is a tricky, mostly invisible operation few dare to take on.

A small Tuticorin company, the PSTS Group, is now an emerging leader in docks and warehouses across the east coast because a young man, P.S.T.S. Thiraviaratnam, foresaw the need for professional management of shipping logistics as long ago as in 1940s.

The family traded mainly in sugar in Karachi, Indonesia and Mumbai. When the patriarch died in 1931, Thiraviaratnam was just a young boy.

However, by 1939, Thiraviaratnam began managing the family's business and started a service company named after the family's forefathers, the PSTS Group, with just a few thousand rupees capital.

His first clients were three shipping companies Mohammedi Steamship Co Ltd, Apeejay Lines and Gill Amin & Co. Ltd, lentil merchants, sugar traders whose 2,000 tonners stopped at mid-sea and their goods were transferred to 1,000-tonne boats and brought to the quayside.

Today, the Rs.850-million PSTS Group provides support to three large ports, Tuticorin, Chennai and Vishakhapatnam, still guided by Thiraviaratnam.

Asked if he had ever dreamt that his little enterprise will become such a large and bustling company, the PSTS group chairman told IANS: "Yes. Most certainly."

"I was very sure that my efforts individually and with various government representations right from early years of my business life will one day come true," he said.

"The development of Tuticorin port and the on-going Sethu channel project are my life's accomplishment and fulfilment," said the man, who now has a new dream, securing an outer harbour for Tuticorin that will accommodate large vessels.

In 1958, he went in the first delegation of the Tuticorin Port Development Council that met then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, urging that Tuticorin port, about 900 km south of Chennai, be recognised as a 'major' port.

"The challenges faced during 1950's to 1970's in bringing (ships to berth at) and making Tuticorin into a major port is history by itself."

"My happiest moment was the day when the first ship Chennai Ookkam came calling at the Tuticorin Port in 1975 and I tied the mooring rope to the bollard."

"In December 2006, when the chairman of Tuticorin Port Trust called me the Father of the Tuticorin Port before a minister and a large gathering, I was very humbled. I look back and feel very good," said the 85-year-old.

Thiraviaratnam's grandson J. Ganesh Ram is now joint managing director of the PSTS Logistics Pvt Ltd and a qualified shipping agent from the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, London.

The job is to provide husbandry services that advises on berth availability, cargo readiness, navigational restrictions, track and provide updates on cargo movement and inputs on economic and political climate of the region to ensure a quick turn around time for a ship, Ram told IANS.

PSTS' stevedoring services take care of licensing, expertise in loading and unloading cargo, bulk, break bulk or container and it also helps with custom clearance.

PSTS provided solutions in 2006 to the movement of India's first Float Glass (3,000 MT) shipment from the St Gobain's glass factory in Sriperumbudur to Chennai port in the heart of the city, destined for Turkey.

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600450 From Tuticorin, A Logistics Wizard Takes Wing

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