KOLKATA : Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ) is set to build a greenfield port at Tajpur in West Bengal’s Purba Medinipur district on a concession period of 99 years, multiple sources said.
According to the sources, APSEZ pipped JSW Infrastructure Ltd, the only other bidder in the fray, to emerge as the highest bidder when the bids for the project were opened on Wednesday. The project entails an investment of nearly ₹7,000 crore in the initial phase.
With Tajpur under its portfolio, Karanataka remains the only coastal State in India where APSEZ doesn’t have a presence.
In February, the country’s biggest port operator won a deal from Centre-owned Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port Authority (formerly Kolkata Port Trust) to mechanise, upgrade and run a dry bulk cargo handling berth at Haldia Dock Complex, on a concession period of 30 years. The berth will be mechanised with an investment of ₹298.26 crore to handle 3.744 million tons (mt) of dry bulk cargo.
The West Bengal government is yet to announce the winner of the Tajpur port project as the price bid submitted by APSEZ will have to go through multiple stages of evaluation, an official said.
According to the tender terms, bidders are required to quote the royalty rate per metric ton (mt) for cargo handled at the port, irrespective of the cargo type or commodity. Besides, they must indicate the cargo traffic projections for seven years, starting from the royalty commencement date.
The project will be awarded to the bidder whose financial bid (royalty rate and cargo throughput estimates) results in the highest net present value (NPV) to the government.
There is a moratorium on payment of royalty to the State government for the first 15 years after which the royalty rate will double for each cycle of 15 years.
“Without a doubt, APSEZ is the highest bidder,” the State government official said, asking not to be named. APSEZ, however, declined to comment on the development.
The Tajpur port tender result comes at a time when APSEZ has been disqualified from participating in some of the cargo handling tenders issued by the Centre-run major ports, citing premature termination of a coal terminal it ran at Visakhapatnam Port Authority on a 30-year contract. Such termination is a ground for disqualification from future tenders issued by major ports, according to tender documents.
APSEZ has challenged its disqualification in multiple courts.
Presence across India
Winning Tajpur port deal would help APSEZ build a modern, deep draft, private port in the vicinity of a major port (Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port) like it has done previously in the case of some of the decades old Centre-owned ports.
APSEZ’s flagship Mundra port is close to Deendayal Port Authority in Kandla, Gujarat, while Dhamra port is near to Paradip Port Authority in Odisha, Gangavaram port which it acquired last year is adjacent to Visakhapatnam Port Authority in Andhra Pradesh and Kattupalli port is close to Chennai Port Authority and Kamarajar Port Ltd.
West Bengal is among two of India’s eight coastal States that haven’t developed any non-major ports with private funds. The State and its hinterland rely on the more than a century-old riverine port of Kolkata (Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port) for export-import needs.
The hinterland of West Bengal comprises mineral rich States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, presenting a strong cargo potential for bulk commodities. It is strategically located as a gateway to North-East India, Southeast Asia, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
However, the riverine Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port is beset by draft limitations, which restricts the entry of large vessels with full load, necessitating multi-point discharge leading to increased costs and cause evacuation challenges. Further, the available draft at the port reduces due to siltation, as it lies in the delta region of Ganga River, requiring considerable spend on dredging every year.
The Tajpur region is near the mineral belts in West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. These States are rich in deposits of iron ore, coal, gemstones and precious stones, limestone, and gold. These States house large power plants, steel manufacturing units, and other manufacturing facilities which drive the demand for bulk commodities such as coal (coking and non-coking), iron ore, limestone, and other containerised products in the region.
Tajpur is envisaged to be an all-weather, deep seaport with a draft of about 12.5 metres. The deeper draft, additional capacity and greater efficiency will provide an alternative to industries for handling their goods. The port is also expected to offer a single point discharge for most of the vessels offering cargo owners cost and time advantages over Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port.
Port industry sources, though, said that Tajpur is a “difficult port” to build given its long shipping channel and the huge quantity of dredging it entails.
“However, the concession period of 99 years for the port project is a game changer in India’s maritime sector as it encourages the private operator to invest huge capex for building the port, recoup the money and generate returns,” said a port industry consultant.
The West Bengal government will transfer 126 acres of land on lease to the successful bidder for developing Tajpur port. It will also transfer a further 1000 acres of land on lease to the port developer for port estate development. The port developer will be allowed to undertake estate development for commercial purposes at the port estate development site with the right to sub-lease/assign any or all parts thereof.