The Indian government approved a Dubai Ports Authority bid for a 38-year concession to operate the Rajiv Gandhi Container Terminal and develop the greenfield site into a major ICTT at Vallarpadam in Kochi.

The Indian government on Wednesday approved a Dubai Ports Authority (DPA) bid for a 38-year concession to operate and manage exclusively the existing Rajiv Gandhi Container Terminal and develop the greenfield site into a major International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) at Vallarpa-dom in Kochi, sources said.

A Kochi Port Trust official has been quoted by the Indian media as having said the offer letter will be sent to DPA officials within a month.

“Like many others, I have also heard the news in the media,” Mohammad Sharaf, managing director of Dubai International (DI), told Gulf News yesterday.

“This, however, paves the way for the formal contract to manage the port, as per our bid. We expect a formal letter from the Cochin Port Trust, following which we will begin the process of taking over the management of the terminal.”

He said since DPA was the highest bidder for the project, the approval was a mere formality. “However, it is good news for us and now we can begin preparations for our work there.”

This will be DPA’s second venture in South Asia, after its successful bid for Visakhapatnam Port a few years ago. DPA commenced operation at Visakhapatnam Port in July last year.

DPA emerged as the highest bidder for the terminal’s concession, beating out six qualified contenders, including Port of Singapore Authority, P&O Ports, Maersk Sealand, ICTSI and a host of local Indian companies in consortium with other terminal operators, such as the Port of Malta.

DI’s bid offered a 33.3 per cent revenue sharing, much higher than the 10 to 12 per cent offered by the closest rival bid — IL & FS-Punj Lloyd Consortium, Mumbai.

“Rail and road access into the hinterland in India is available from the port of Cochin, making this an effective gateway for the growing Indian trade,” Sharaf said.

The port last year handled 170,000 TeUs. The overall cost of the development of ICTT is envisaged to be in stages.

With Kochi, the number of international terminals operated by DI increases to five.

“It is an Onam gift for Kerala”, said Kerala chief minister A.K. Antony, without hiding his glee over the Central government’s decision to clear the project.

Keralites have reason to celebrate this Onam, for along-pending port project at Kochi had finally got Delhi’s nod and prime minister Manmohan Singh himself may be at hand to lay the foundation stone for the project.

The Vallarpadom container transhipment project at Kochi has been in the air for decades but for various reasons it has been in limbo all these years.

Last year, the Dubai Ports International won the global tender floated for the port project, but quite surprisingly more delays occurred.

When the new finance minister P. Chidambaram presented the budget, the Vallarpadom container project was included in it, raising still more hopes but more doubts cropped up later.

And now, with cabinet committee on economic affairs clearing the project, the long-standing dream of the state is close to being realised.

Source : Hellenic Shipping News