In an attempt to increase its footprint in the infrastructure space and tap into growing demand for cargo handling in India’s ports, the Bangalore-based Hindustan Infrastructure Projects & Engineering Pvt. Ltd, a firm promoted by Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar, has submitted initial bids for developing and operating a deep sea port at Karwar in Karnataka.

Hindustan Infrastructure promoter Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Also in the fray to develop the port are the Gujarat-based Adani Group, Sical Logistics Ltd, IL&FS, Gammon Infrastructure Projects Ltd, ABG Heavy Industries Ltd, Maytas Infra Ltd and Navyug Engineering Co. Ltd, among others. To strengthen its bid, Hindustan Infrastructure has teamed up with Westports Malaysia Sdn Bhd, which runs one of the two container terminals at Port Klang, the world’s 12th biggest container port. “We will form a joint venture to develop, operate and maintain the port. The details of the joint venture, including the equity holdings, will be worked out after we win the deal," said an executive at Hindustan Infrastructure, who did not wish to be identified.

Maytas Infra, promoted by some of the significant shareholders in Satyam Computer Services Ltd, has bid for the project with Nagarjuna Construction Co. Ltd, while Sical Logistics has teamed up with Subhash Projects and Marketing Ltd. IL&FS has three other partners—Hill Co. Ltd, Punj Lloyd Ltd, and IVRCL Infrastructure and Projects Ltd— and Chennai’s Anant Transport Ltd has bid for the project in partnership with the Port of Rotterdam.

IMC Ltd has teamed up with ITD Cementation India Ltd while Future Metals Pvt. Ltd has submitted its bid along with Jurong Infrastructure India Pvt. Ltd. Others bidders include JSW Infrastructure & Logistics Ltd, GVPREL, North Canara Seaports Ltd (an entity floated by Larsen and Toubro’s Kakinada Seaports Ltd, which runs the Kakinada port in Andhra Pradesh).

A four-member panel formed by the Karnataka government’s department of ports and inland water transport is currently evaluating the bids to shortlist those that meet its eligibility criteria for the project. Only shortlisted bidders will be allowed to submit a financial bid. The 30-year project will be awarded to the bidder quoting the highest percentage of revenue to be shared with the state government.

After selling his stake in BPL Communications Ltd in 2005 to Essar Teleholdings Ltd, part of the Essar Group—BPL Communications was valued at $1 billion—Chandrasekhar promoted Jupiter Capital to focus on infrastructure, media and technology ventures.

Jupiter Capital set up Hindustan Infrastructure to pursue investment opportunities in areas such as transportation, utilities (such as water), electricity transmission and ­aviation.

Hindustan Infrastructure holds a 24% stake in India Infrastructure and Logistics Pvt. Ltd, a joint venture firm floated by the Singapore government-owned global transportation and logistics firm, Neptune Orient Lines, to provide rail freight services in India.

The company will also shortly sign an agreement with the Maharashtra government to develop and operate an all-weather port at Vijaydurg with an investment of about Rs1,500 crore.

Karwar and Vijaydurg are ports owned by the Karnataka and Maharashtra governments, respectively. Private firms operating these ports will have the freedom to fix tariffs for the services provided at the ports. In comparison, tariffs at the 12 main ports in India, owned by the Union government, are set by the Tariff Authority for Major Ports.

Indian ports currently have the capacity to handle 736 million tonnes (mt) of cargo a year. Out of this, the 12 ports owned by the Centre can handle 508mt a year, while those owned by the states can handle 228mt a year. The Union shipping ministry says India’s cargo handling capacity needs to be raised to 1,500mt a year by 2012 to meet the rising demand for importing raw materials and exporting finished goods in the world’s second fastest growing major economy. About 95% of India’s trade by volume and 70% by value is moved by the sea route.

The shipping ministry estimates that around Rs90,000 crore will be needed to raise India’s cargo handling capacity to 1,500mt a year. Much of this money is expected to come from the private sector.

According to the ministry, the 12 major ports are expected to add 500mt a year of capacity, and ports owned by the states, an additional 610mt a year by 2012.