Mumbai: Pondicherry Port Ltd, which is developing a port at Puducherry at a cost of Rs2,300 crore to handle 25 million tonnes of cargo, plans to build India’s fifth largest container terminal there, even as an expanding economy increases demand for cargo and container handling facilities at ports across the country. The firm plans to engage a specialist operator to build the terminal.
The port, with Tamil Nadu as its hinterland will cater to the demands of some of the biggest trading towns in the state including Salem, Coimbatore, Erode and Madurai. Tirupur, the textile capital of the country will also be served by this terminal.
The 2.5-3 million twenty-foot equivalent unit (teu) capacity-a-year terminal will be built in four phases. A teu is the standard size of a container and is a common measure of capacity in the container business.
“The first phase of the port project costing Rs1,300 crore is slated to start operations in 2010, and will have 1-2 container berths,” said Jayakumar, chief executive officer of Pondicherry?Port?Ltd,?an?equal venture? between Kolkata-based engineering,?construction and project management firm Subhash Projects & Marketing Ltd and Delhi-based Om Metals Infra Projects Ltd. A third container berth would be added by the final phase in 2013.
Pondicherry Port Ltd has started preliminary work on selecting partners for various cargo handling facilities as well as contractors for constructing breakwaters, quays and fencing and for dredging the port. It is also in discussions with lenders to tie up funds, Jayakumar said, without elaborating further.
The consortium comprising Subhash Projects and Om Metals was awarded the 30-year project to develop and operate the Puducherry port. As per the terms, the port developer will share 2.65% of annual operating gross revenues with the Puducherry government. Apart from the container berths, the port will also have a general cargo berth, a bulk cargo berth to handle coal and iron ore, a liquid cargo terminal for molasses and edible oils and a crude liner berth.
Being a port owned by the state government, the private operator will be free to fix tariffs without consulting a regulator. Tariffs for the 12 Union government-owned ports are set by a tariff regulator, the Tariff Authority for Major Ports. Together these ports handled 5.43 million teus in the year ended 2007. As most of the Union government-owned ports are functioning in excess of their full capacity, further expansion is difficult. “Therefore the stress is on developing ports owned by state governments to handle the cargo,” Jayakumar said.