South Indian port wooing investors

South Indian port wooing investors

NEW DELHI - India's the southwestern Port of Kochi is making another attempt to get its transshipment terminal project off the ground.

The port has short-listed nine overseas and domestic companies for the Vallarpadam island project. Foreign companies include APM Terminals, P&O Ports, Dubai Port Authority, PSA Corp., and International Container Terminal Services. Kochi held a meeting with the companies and asked them to submit bids by March 25.

This is Kochi's third attempt to generate interest in an international container transshipment terminal under build-operate-transfer terms. In 1999, lone bidder P&O Ports was rejected as it operates the competing Nhava Sheva International Container Terminal at Nehru. In September 2003, APM Terminals and CSX World Terminals failed to submit price bids, and also sought "unreasonable" concessions, according to Kochi authorities. Global tenders were again invited in January.

Officials say Kochi is best suited for international transshipments as it is close to the main shipping lanes between Singapore and the Suez Canal and Mid-East. The Indian government also has created a special economic zone in Kochi, which will provide cargo to Kochi as industries are established.

The port has sweetened the tender terms, reducing the minimum throughput requirement from 1.5 million TEUs to 500,000 TEUs a year. Also, the private operator will have 10 years to boost traffic at the existing Rajiv Gandhi Container Terminal from 165,000 TEUs to 6 million TEUs before shifting to Vallarpadam, instead of the five years stipulated in the original bid document.