New Delhi: Dubai-based DP World, Singapore-based Portek in a joint-venture with India’s ACTL, and two other Indian companies—JM Baxi Group and IL&FS—are competing to operate the Varanasi-based Ramnagar Multimodal Terminal.

“There are four firms in fray for the Varanasi-based Ramnagar multimodal terminal. These are DP World, ACTL-Portek, JM Baxi Group and IL&FS," said a senior government official on condition of anonymity. “The technical evaluation of the bidders is on following which financial bids would be opened".

He said a final decision would be taken by December.

The multimodal terminal (MMT) is the first of three planned on the 1,320-km National Waterway 1 from Haldia in West Bengal to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 12 November. The Ramnagar MMT has a capacity of 1.26 million tonnes per annum of cargo and is built on an area of 34 hectares.

An official from the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), the apex body for national waterways development in India, confirmed the names of the bidders and said the authority had invited bids for the operation, management and further development of the MMT as the project was planned to be operated on a public-private partnership model. Selection is being done through an international competitive bidding and is likely to be finalized by next month. The official declined to be named.

The Varanasi MMT is an important project for the central government as Varanasi is Modi’s constituency. It is planned to be used for both passengers and cargo movement along the national waterway. The government plans to develop this stretch between Varanasi and Haldia on the river Ganga for large vessels which can carry 1,500-2,000 tonnes. The terminal is next to a 100-acre freight village which is still under development.

Shipping minister Nitin Gadkari, who revived the idea of national waterways, has said that waterways are cheaper and environment-friendly, reducing logistic costs to 10% from 18%.

The development of National Waterway 1 is being implemented by the IWAI under the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) with financial and technical support of the World Bank.

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