India: New Gujarat Container Port Proposed

Dubai A proposed new container port in the western Indian state of Gujarat built on a public-private partnership could tap funding from expatriate Indians or Indian-owned institutions for its development.

There could even be opportunities for GCC-based port operators with the proposed project open to the idea of aligning with potential partners.

The intention is to create a fully functional port by 2015 that would be able to handle throughput in keeping with Gujarat’s growing industrial base.

The Gujarat state government would hold a stake in the operating company and for the rest of the equity, private entities would be encouraged to come on board.

The proposed investment size has not been revealed. A feasibility study has already identif ied a green f ield site for the proposed port — one which will offer easy access to the highway, railhead and an airport.

The proposed port would create a 600-metre berth that could accommodate three to four vessels at a time. More berths can also be created.

If all goes according to plan, “ the survey and hydro-graphic studies would be completed by the middle of 2011 and all clearances and design of the port should be ready by mid2012,” said Kumar Krishnamoorthy, a senior shipping industry official closely associated with the feasibility study.

“ Given the determination of the promoters and the management team, one should see the gantries functioning at the port by New Year’s Day 2015.”

The port would handle container ships of 200 metre lengths and more, including Panamax and postPanamax plus vessels of 335 metres length and requiring a draft of 13 to 14 metres. In the first phase, dry-bulk cargo Panamax size vessels of 65,000 DWT are envisaged, Krishnamoorthy told Gulf News during a recent trip to Dubai.

Even with 280 working days a year and berth occupation of 85 per cent, cargo that can be handled is a minimum of 2.5 million tonnes a year,” he added.

“ With eff icient modern handling arrangements, a maximum of ten million tonnes a year can be handled.”

Lucrative marketplace

The site for the proposed project would break water and provide a draft of about ten to 12 metres even at low tides, the off icial said. The main site is within three kilometres of the shoreline, and no major dredging works are required.

Apart f rom the funding opportunities such a project would open up, Gulf-based port entities would be watching closely for what it might mean in terms of securing a beachhead into a lucrative marketplace.

According to recent reports, ports in Gujarat are expected to record t he fastest growth rates in the country, with the “ gap between demand and supply will be at least 40 million tones.” Cargo at ports in Gujarat averages 22 per cent, while the rate is 6 per cent for the rest of the country.

“ The container t raff i c is expected to reach 6.21 million Teus where as the capacity would be only 5.65 million Teus,” said Krishnamoorthy.

“ It is clear a multi-purpose port that can handle dry bulk and containers would be a profitable venture given the overall favourable conditions of labour, power, inland connectivity both road and rail, cargo prospects and a favourable local administration,” he said.

Given the advantage of having a 1 ,600 kilometre coastline, Gujarat already operates 41 ports, including the mega-terminal of Kandla.

The others are split between 11 intermediate and 29 minor ports, which include those owned by public-private alliances as well as privately. Of the latter, Pipavav and Mundra are already operational and lay claim to be the country’s first such private sector ports.

Hefty volumes

According to forecasts, ports in Mumbai would still account for the largest volumes in 2015 of around ten million Teus. The Gujarat ports would make up about f ive million Teus, and the Kochi/ Tuticorin another four million Teus.

“ The present container handling capacity at India’s ports is estimated at around 5.7 million Teus,” Krishnamoorthy said.

“ Achieving a handling capacity in excess of 21 million Teus by 2015 presents an enormous challenge. But what’s noteworthy is the increase in projected traffic at some port clusters, Gujarat, Visakhapatnam, Kochi/ Tuticorin, where projections call for a ten to 20 fold increase by 2015.”

Source: Gulf News, December 13, 2010

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