CoPT Bid To Breathe Life Into Vallarpadam Terminal Project

Kochi, November 4 | Updated: Nov 5 2003, 05:30am hrs
Cochin Port Trust (CoPT) is making a frantic bid to infuse life into the Rs 2,000-crore clinically dead international container transshipment terminal (ICTT) proposal by looking out for a strategic private partner and also involving IDFC.

Even as these discussions go on, the port authorities are going ahead with the proposal to improve the facilities at the present Rajiv Gandhi terminal which had never been developed for the past few years expecting the international terminal to become a reality.

As per the agreement for the international terminal, the successful bidder would have to operate the old terminal while building the new one.

The international terminal project proposal at Vallarpadam had literally run aground after the port board of trustees rejected the bids of two companies, UK-based CSX World Terminals and Copenhagen-based Maersk, nearly two months ago. The two bidders had skirted the price issue and put a host of riders that were unacceptable to the port authorities.

Top port officials say preliminary talks were already held with two major firms and also IDFC. The port chairman is to hold a series of meetings in Delhi over the next two days and is expected to submit to the shipping secretary a blueprint for reviving the proposal after it nearly courted death twice.

According to officials, talks had already been held with L&T and PSA of Singapore which had earlier evinced interest in the project but did not participate in the final price bid. The port authorities have already held a round of talks with IDFC officials regarding funding the project for which the port proposes to float an SPV. Officials said that with the IDFC funding at a 1:5 ratio, the port and the private player would have to chip in a meagre amount and the rest could be taken as loan from the corporation.

The ports plans are to be based on the Cochin international airport, the first private-public venture in the field in the country. Shipping sources are not much enthused by the new proposal saying that fresh bids would have to be invited and the whole process to be undergone again by which time other ports would have been developed and Kochi stood little chance to face the competition.