Bangalore: Antwerp Port Authority, or APA, which manages Europe’s second biggest port in Belgium, plans to invest in Indian port development projects and start consultancy services for new private ports in the country.
“India will be a priority area for our consultancy arm,” said Eddy Bruyninckx, chief executive of APA. “We intend to take up port management activities in India through Antwerp Port Consultancy, a subsidiary of the Antwerp Port Authority,” he told Mint in a recent interview in Antwerp.
Antwerp is the second European port to look at managing ports in India, where a number of new-generation ports are being developed to meet rising demand for importing raw material and finished goods.
Earlier, the Port of Rotterdam Authority, which manages Europe’s biggest port, had announced plans to set up a company by partnering a local private firm to manage ports in India. As for investments, APA plans to buy shares in port development projects in the country through Belgian private firms such as Rent-A-Port, which have offices in India, said chief commercial officer Luc Arnouts.
Antwerp-based Rent-A-Port undertakes financing, construction, development and management of ports, logistics, marine infrastructure and free trade zones worldwide.
It is owned by Ackermans and van Haaren NV, or AVH, a publicly listed business group specializing in logistics, real estate and banking. CFE, the largest civil engineering group and construction services company in Belgium, is a shareholder in Rent-A-Port.
The third biggest stakeholder is Rent-A-Port’s management, led by chairman Leo Delwaide, who is also the honorary chairman of APA.
Eyeing India: Containers being loaded at the Antwerp port, Belgium.
Bruyninckx, however, said APA would not take up cargo-handling activities in India. “As a port authority, we are not involved in cargo-handling by ourselves. Cargo-handling at Antwerp port is done by private local and global firms who are specialists,” he said.
Antwerp port, which lies on the Scheldt river in the Flanders region of Belgium, is the fourth biggest in the world by cargo volumes, handling 183 million tonnes (mt) of cargo. The city of Antwerp owns it.
In India, a dozen Union government-owned ports are managed by a board of trustees, based on the service port model where the port trusts are responsible for operational activities such as tugs, pilotage, linesmen, stevedoring and warehousing.
The trusts also own the land and waterfront on behalf of the government, limiting the opportunity for private players.
However, several of the country’s new ports, owned by state governments in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, are being developed by private firms. These could provide the ideal setting for APA to launch its port management business in India.
Some of these ports, referred to as non-major ports, handled 185.54mt of cargo in fiscal 2008, accounting for about 25% of the cargo handled at all ports in India. The 12 Union government-owned ports handled 519mt of cargo in the same year, against a capacity of 528.75mt.
The cargo-handling capacity of India’s non-major ports, both existing and new, is projected to rise to 839.16mt by 2012 from 228.31mt. The capacity addition needs an investment of Rs35,933 crore, of which Rs28,664 crore, or 80%, is expected to come from private companies.
Like Antwerp port, India’s non-major ports follow the so-called landlord port model for development and operations, in which the private sector has a bigger role. In this model, the land and waterfront infrastructure is owned by the government or local authority, while cargo-handling and other essential operations are outsourced to specialist private firms which put up their own superstructure, including buildings and equipment.
This correspondent was at Antwerp in Belgium recently as a guest of the Antwerp Port Authority.