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After green nod, transshipment hub in Nicobar wins in-principle approval

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NEW DELHI : The Finance Ministry has given its in-principle approval to plans to build International Container Transshipment Terminal in Great Nicobar following environmental clearance for the marque, ₹43,700-crore project, two officials privy to the development said.

The Ministry of shipping, ports and inland waterways will now shortly finalize a cabinet note for the public private partnership project, and seek approval in the last quarter of FY24 to speed up financial bids. The bids are likely to be finalized in the first quarter of FY25. The project, which secured interest from about 10 investors earlier this year, has now got funding clearance from the public investment board. Mint earlier reported that Larsen and Toubro Ltd, Afcons Infrastructure Ltd and JSW Infrastructure Ltd are among companies interested to build the terminal.

In an interview, Shipping and Ports Minister Shri Sarbananda Sonowal had also said that close to 10 domestic and global players have responded to the expression of interest sought for the mega project. The project was geared to take off last year after Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi announced it in 2020. But it ran into delays over environmental clearance and opposition from environmentalists over potential damage to flora and fauna in the region. These issues have now been resolved, said one of the officials cited above.

The project is a strategic initiative of the government aimed at helping the country become a key participant in the international sea route that runs from the eastern borders of Russia to China, West Asia, Europe and Africa.

The proposed transhipment hub is just 40 nautical miles away from this route and the location has a natural draft that is adequate for berthing large ships from international liners. The hub has existing transhipment terminals like Singapore, Klang (Malaysia) and Colombo in its proximity.

The project is part of a ₹72,000 crore overall Great Nicobar project, which also includes plans for an international airport, a township and area development, as well as gas and solar based-power plants over 16,610 hectares in the island.

The prosed transshipment hub will be developed in two phases. The target is to create capacity for 4 million TEU (20-foot equivalent) containers in the first phase and 16 million TEU in the second. The investment is expected to be around ₹18,000-20,000 crore in the first phase and ₹43,700 crore in the second.

In the first phase, the focus will be on developing infrastructure for port facilities like breakwater, berths, storage areas, as well as buildings, utilities and equipment to handle containers and cargo.

Great Nicobar will also rectify a strategic supply chain problem—more than three-fourths of India’s transshipment cargo is currently handled by ports outside India.

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