Tough maritime policy on cards

Written by Praveen Kumar Singh | Praveen Kumar Singh | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 1 2010, 03:43am hrs
The government has decided to prepare a tough policy to reduce litigation by bidders of maritime projects and ensure timely award of work under its flagship National Maritime Development Programme (NMDP). The government is facing multiple cases related to port development projects in various courts of the country, due to which it has often failed to bid out port expansion projects on time.

At present, the operator of any one terminal at a major port is barred from bidding for another platform being awarded immediately after the first one.

Various projects have been delayed due to court cases filed by bidders. We want to promote competition in the port sector by preventing private monopoly, but the existing policy has not been completely successful in that. We think more clarity is required to the bidders. Hence, we are planning a revamped policy to avoid any problems in the future, a senior government official told FE. He, however, did not give the exact details of the new policy.

Since 2007, when the present policy was formed, firms like Gateway Terminals India Pvt Ltd, P&O Australia and PSA-Sical have dragged the government in various courts, seeking permission to bid for more projects. Although, the government has had an upper hand in most of the cases, major ports faced delays spanning years in awarding the projects.

In the latest case of Ennore Port, private bidders that were barred from bidding for Rs 1,407-crore container terminal at the port, there has been a delay of more than a year. The project was to be awarded in 2008-09, but some private consortia challenged the port managements decision to bar them from bidding in the Madras High Court. The petition is now withdrawn and the government plans to award the project in a week.

A total of nine projects were carried forward from 2008-09 to the present financial year, of which seven have already been awarded. A project to convert a berth at Tuticorin into container terminal is likely to be carried forward to the next fiscal, the official said, adding that some of the projects lined up for this year may also be pushed to 2010-11. The government planned to award 17 NMDP projects in 2009-10, but only two have been handed over to private players.

Under NMDP, a public-private participation programme to increase capacity of the 12 major ports to nearly 1,000 million tonne a year by awarding 276 projects by March 2012, work has completed on 47 projects while 71 projects are on. The major ports are supposed to have a capacity of 650.9 mt per annum in 2009, but their total strength was 574.77 mt till mid-November.