Bangalore: Mumbai-based logistics firm ABG Infralogistics Ltd has moved the Bombay high court after it was excluded from the bidding process for developing and operating a Rs600 crore new container terminal at the Jawaharlal Nehru (JN) Port, India’s busiest container port, located at Nhava Sheva near Mumbai.
The new terminal, next to the Nhava Sheva International Container Terminal Pvt. Ltd, will have a contract period of 18 years ending in 2027.
The petition is scheduled to be heard on Monday.
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ABG on 19 March had filed a writ petition after port authorities informed it that its application had been rejected. The port did not give any reason or justification for the rejection, a person familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity. ABG, he claimed, had met the key qualification criteria on technical and financial parameters.
Spokespersons for both ABG and JN Port declined comment.
The port plans to develop a small container terminal with a berth length of 330m (half the normal length of 650-700m) with a capacity to handle 600,000 standard containers a year through private investments to boost capacity and ease congestion. The port currently handles around 60% of India’s container cargo of at least 7.5 million standard containers a year.
JN Port has shortlisted only two entities for the new project. These are DP World Ltd, the world’s fourth biggest container port operator owned by the Dubai government, and a consortium comprising Essar group companies Vadinar Oil Terminal Ltd and Essar Ports and Terminals Ltd.
The shortlisting criteria set by the government include experience in developing and operating a range of infrastructure projects.
The credentials of eligible applicants were to be measured in terms of a so-called experience score, based on the sum total of the scores they notch up for all such projects.
The applicants were then to be ranked on the basis of their respective aggregate experience scores and shortlisted for submission of price bids.
However, individual groups led by Grup Marítim TCB SL, Mundra Port and SEZ Ltd and ABG had notched higher experience scores than the consortium led by Vadinar Oil Terminal.
An executive at L&T Transport Project Pvt. Ltd, a unit of Larsen and Toubro Ltd (L&T), which was also not shortlisted, said, “It is disturbing to know that we were not shortlisted though L&T had fulfilled two key criteria on technical and financial parameters.” He did not want to be named because of a company policy on speaking to the media.
“We were expecting a minimum number of six bidders, even that was not followed,” this executive said.
The government had last year decided to restrict the number of shortlisted bidders to six for all infrastructure projects, including cargohandling terminals at state-owned ports. The aim was to ensure competition and to discourage non-serious bidders. The tender floated by JN Port had incorporated this clause.
Axis Bank Ltd, the consultant hired by the port to evaluate the bidders, had compiled a list of five entities that were qualified to participate in the auction. JN Port later pared the list to two. Asish Shah, who signed the evaluation report of bidders at Axis Bank, denied the development. When asked why only two entities were shortlisted instead of six, Shah said, “This is something internal, which I cannot reveal.”
Graphics by Ahmed Raza Khan / Mint