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India lines up port investments; PSA’s JNPT terminal ready

India’s ambitious multi-billion dollar plan to expand existing ports, set up new ones and revive inland waterways is on track. It has got a boost from rising port profits and a new container terminal will be operationalized in a few weeks, the country’s shipping minister Nitin Gadkari said.

The JNPT port in India’s financial capital Mumbai has already received offers from around 40 companies worth an aggregate total of $9 billion in its upcoming Special Economic Zone, or SEZ, which will be focused on exports, the minister said over the weekend. He was addressing a large gathering of overseas Indians in Singapore to mark the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.

A Taiwanese company alone has promised an investment of over $900 million with the potential to create 40,000 jobs, he said without divulging the name.

India’s largest container port JNPT is doubling its handling capacity and also setting up an adjacent SEZ in the face of stiff competition from private ports such as Adani Group-controlled Mundra.

“We are going to inaugurate a $1.2 billion port next month, in which Singapore has invested,” Gadkari said. He was referring to the new container terminal to be opened shortly at JNPT by Bharat Mumbai Container Terminals, or BMCT, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Singapore’s PSA International.

“The most important sector for us is shipping because of India’s coastline of 7,500 km with 12 major ports, which are making good profits,” the minister said. Annual profits accruing from ports are projected at around $1.05 billion this year, more than double the amount earned four years ago, he said.

The government has lined up plans to invest around $240 billion over a few years on a multiple-projects program including setting up six new major ports such as Wadhwan and Colachel, he said.

Close to $60 billion will be invested to improve port-road and port-rail connectivity, the minister said, adding that additional sums have also been allotted for modernization and mechanization of existing ports.

The new PSA terminal in JNPT will go a long way in improving the port-rail connectivity, the minister said. Until recently, rail has ceded share of cargo handling in JNPT, to road. However, with the setting of the new PSA terminal, the trend is likely to reverse.

State-owned rail company Container Corp. of India, or Concor, has signed a memorandum of understanding to run dedicated shuttle trains from the new terminal to consolidate containers railed between JNPT and the rest of the country.

Indian Port Rail Connectivity Corp., or IPRCL — a company specially dedicated to this purpose — is working on other routes to enhance the port-rail connectivity and has already approved several such projects, he said. These include the Indore-Manmad rail line, where an investment of $900 million has been lined up, he said. IPRCL also plans to connect JNPT with Kasara in neighboring Thane district.

A “smart city” with state-of-the-art technology and upgraded infrastructure is being set up at Kandla port, he said. For the first time since the Kandla port was developed in the 1950s, India has embarked upon setting up new major ports to handle rising freight traffic.

The minister said India is developing 111 inland waterways to reduce the cost of moving goods and passengers within the country. In areas where draft is shallow, dredging is being undertaken to increase it to 3 meters.

A 1,380 km Varanasi-Haldia inland waterway is being developed along the river Ganges and a similar project is also on along the Brahmaputra, he said. Sea traffic control has already started between Haldia and Patna with ferries and ro-ro vessels operating on the route.

A $150 million cruise terminal is being set up in Mumbai and similar initiatives will also be taken up in Chennai, Mangalore and Goa, he said.

“Thousands of Indian tourists travel all the way to Singapore for cruise holidays, when similar facilities can be provided within the country itself,” Gadkari said. All these projects are part of the ambitious Sagarmala program to initiate a “Blue Revolution.”

The term is used to refer to a vision of cutting logistical costs through improved and inter-linked waterways to facilitate transportation of goods for India’s domestic market.

Furthermore, it is hoped that by upgrading and revitalizing existing ports, as well as building new ones, this would enable India’s plan to increase manufactured exports and international competitiveness.
Source: Platts

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