The Indian government last week took a major step to streamline the security clearance process for port development projects under the public-private partnership model.
“The Ministry of Shipping would prepare and circulate a list of all Indian and foreign companies that normally bid for port projects to the concerned security agencies,” the government said. “On receipt of the details, security agencies would provide their inputs on such a list to the Ministry of Shipping within 12 weeks.”
The new guidelines came in the wake of widespread concerns that security clearance had been one of the major factors contributing to lengthy delays in award of concession contracts by port authorities.
"Once security clearance is accorded to any company by the Ministry of Shipping, based on the inputs of relevant ministries and other agencies with respect to any port project, such clearance in respect of that company will be valid for three years," the government advisory said.
According to the guidelines, price bids for port contracts would not be opened until “prequalified bidders” are granted security clearance by the Shipping Ministry.
The government also said the guidelines would apply to minor port projects developed by state governments. “Security clearance is essential for non-major ports, including private ports, set up under the PPP model in the states due to the sensitiveness of the port sector.”
The Shipping Ministry in January 2011 launched a $110 billion maritime plan to expand the country’s port capacity to 3.2 billion tons by 2020, from about 1 billion tons now, to cope with the projected growth in cargo volumes. As part of the program, the ministry plans to award 42 projects under public-private and state-funded developmental schemes during the current fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2013, adding an estimated capacity of about 250 million tons a year.