Development of Great Nicobar Transshipment Port inches ahead

Early 2023 brought the news about a new container transshipment hub being developed at the Galathea Bay, in Great Nicobar Islands. In the latest news, there are many international players that have expressed their interest in participating in the bidding process. The project has a budget of INR 48,000 crore and has received at least 10 Expressions of Interest (EoIs).

“We have received over 10 EoIs for the Gibraltar Bay Port, and a few more players and leading shipping liners, including international ones have reached out to us saying that they are interested in bidding for the project. So let’s see how this works out. As of now, the initial trends or interest levels are encouraging.”

Sarbananda Sonowal, Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW)

The Syama Prasad Mookherjee Port, Kolkata (SMPK) floated the requests for EoIs back in January 2023, as a part of the ICTP project. Officials had said that the transshipment port would enable big ships to anchor and raise India’s share in maritime trade, create new job opportunities, and save a lot of forex.

Notable names that have submitted EoIs for the project include Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ), JSW Infra, Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL), and Container Corporation. On the international front, Dutch dredging major Royal Boskalis Westminster has expressed its intent to be included in the bidding process.

The project will be executed in four phases between 2028 and 2058 and would handle 16 million containers per year, in the ultimate stage of development. In the first phase, the length of the jetty has been planned to be 1.6 kilometers long, with a capacity of 4.3 million TeU containers. This will later be ramped up to 16 million TeU. The estimated cost for the first phase of the port is INR 18,000 crore and the clearances/approvals are under process.

The Haldia multi-modal terminal being implemented by the Inland Waterways Authority of India will be inaugurated on Friday. It will boost cargo movement through inland waterways to the northeastern region and Bangladesh from Haldia port which is under SMPK.

It is possible that the Nicobar Port may be developed under the ‘landlord’ model, which means that the publicly governed port authority acts as a regulatory body (landlord), while private companies carry out port operations i.e. mainly cargo-handling activities. While the port authority will keep the port ownership, infrastructure development will be given to the private sector, which can install its own equipment to handle cargo. The private player will also be paying a share of the revenue to the ‘landlord’.

According to the EoI, the port authority will provide the basic infrastructure and 125 hectares of reclaimed land for the development of the container yard and other infrastructure facilities. On the other hand, the chosen concessionaire will design, finance, construct, operate, and maintain the container handling facilities envisaged in Phase-I under a long-term concession agreement of 30-50 years.

The ambitious development plan for Great Nicobar Islands by NITI Aayog, which includes an airport, a port, a rapid transport system, and a trade complex, may see an overall investment of more than INR 40,000 crore. Meanwhile, projects in SMPK valued at INR 900 crore are under implementation and others worth another INR 3,300 crore are in the final stage of tendering.

Once ready, the port is expected to surpass the International Container Transshipment Terminal at Kochi (Kerela) and is expected to be developed on a much larger scale. The natural depth available at Galathea Bay will be 20 meters, and it will offer two geographical advantages – proximity to the busy east-west international shipping route, along with deep natural water depths that can accommodate the latest generation of mega-ships.

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