In a major step forward in realising Kerala’s dream maritime project, the Congress-led UDF government and Gujarat-based Adani Group today signed the work contract agreement for development of the Rs 7,525-crore Vizhinjam International Deepwater Multipurpose Seaport.
First proposed in 1991 during then Congress-led government, the project failed to take off for various reasons till the present Ommen Chandy Ministry took it up after coming to power in 2011 and awarded it to the Adani Group.
The concession agreement for the project was signed by Kerala Principal Secretary (Ports) James Varghese and Adani Vizhinjam Port Private Ltd CEO Santosh Kumar Mahopatra in the presence of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani at a function in the Secretariat here.
The project is expected to be operational in a record time of less than 1,000 days. Out of the total cost, Rs 4,089 crore would be the PPP component and Rs 1,463 crore was the funded work expenditure to be borne by the state government.
The MoU is for granting of licence for construction and operation of the port for a 40-year period, including the construction period of four years.
The agreement signing function also had its political overturns with CPI-M led LDF Opposition boycotting it, alleging lack of transparency in awarding the contract to Adani Group.
Pro and anti-demonstrations by various outfits in awarding the contract to Adani Group took place in front of the state secretariat.
In a bid to reach out to LDF, Gautam Adani visited CPI-M veteran and Leader of the Opposition V S Achuthanandan at his residence earlier in the day.
Adani also met BJP state leaders, including V Muraleedharan, before signing the agreement. BJP leaders participated in the function.
Speaking at the function, Chandy said government will not allow anything to adversely affect the life of local people in the project area, in an assurance to the fishermen community who had expressed concerns over their rehabilitation.
He also said the state government had already taken up with the Centre the cabotage law issue. “I expect a favourable decision from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter.”
Adani said the company would take steps to complete the project in 1,000 days and would start the actual construction work by November 1 next.
He also said they were expecting a favourable decision by the Centre with regard to Kerala’s request for relaxation of the cabotage law for the Port.
“We will make Vizhinjam one of the world’s largest mega transshipment container terminals that will make state of Kerala and nation proud,” he said.
Cabotage refers to the carriage of goods between two ports in one country by ships registered in that country.
As per Cabotage law, it is mandatory to use Indian ships in transportation of cargo to different ports along the country’s coast. Foreign ships can be used for carrying goods only when domestic ships are not available after seeking permission from India’s maritime regulator.
Vizhinjam, with its strategic access to Middle East â€“ the Suez Canal – coast of East Africa – Bay of Bengal, and the Straits of Malacca had an unmatched locational advantage, Adani pointed out.
“This advantage coupled with strong growth of India and the surrounding sub-contient makes it one of the most exciting ports being developed in world,” he said.
Local people would be given different roles in port construction and operation, he added.
Despite being the deepest, natural draft port and strategically located, the project which had been coceived 25 years ago had not taken off. But things changed very fast after a meeting with Chandy, Adani said
Talking to reporters after the function, Adani said his meeting with Achuthanandan was “personal”.
“I heard what he has to say,” he said adding the Marxist veteran was not against the project.
The project is being developed under LandLord and PPP model route. The port’s container berth will have a length of 3,100m with 140m extension to fish land harbour. Container berth length of 800m capable of handling up to 18,000 TEU container vessels.