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Boost for maritime sector as Rs 76,220 Crore Vadhavan Port planned in Maharashtra gets cabinet nod

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NEW DELHI : The Union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Wednesday cleared the proposal to develop a Rs 76,220 crore deep water port at Vadhavan near Dahanu in Maharashtra’s Palghar district.

The Vadhavan port, which was conceived 60 years ago, is set to be built along the Arabian coast, 5 kilometres north of Mumbai, on public private partnership (PPP) mode. Once ready, it will be the biggest container port in India, both in terms of capacity and draft (depth in harbour). 

The port will handle 23.2 million twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) a year. A TEU — a standard unit of measurement to determine container capacity — refers to a shipping container that is 20 feet long, 8 feet wide and 8 feet tall. 

It will be a major port with a natural draft (depth in harbour) of 20 metres. Currently, none of the major ports have such a draft, which limits the berthing of mega shipping vessels. The Jawaharlal Nehru Port, so far the largest container handling port in India, has a draft of 15.5 metres.  

Shipping ministry officials, who did not want to be named, said the port will boost trade because of its advantageous location. “The port is located near the international trade route,” said a ministry official.

Speaking about cabinet decisions at a press conference in New Delhi, Union Minister of Railways Shri Ashwini Vaishnaw said the port will be an integral part of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC).

Currently, 37 percent of India’s total foreign trade with Europe, North America and Russia happens through the Suez Canal.

Shri Vaishnaw said the Vadhavan port’s natural draft will be an advantage. “Where there is a natural draft, bigger vessels (ships) can berth, and the place requires less dredging. This means less maintenance, less operational cost. Vadhavan port is one of those most significant natural sites along the west coast of India where natural draft is 20 metres. It’s a very significant parameter for developing a new port,” he said. 

The minister further said that there was a lot of consultation while approving the project. “Each stakeholder was consulted, their views were taken, many design changes were made looking at the needs of the local population.”

The port will be constructed in two phases. In the first phase, scheduled to be completed by 2030, the port will have the capacity to handle 15 million TEU. The second phase will be ready between 2035 and 2039.

There are 12 major ports and 200 non-major ports (minor ports) in the country. While the major ports are under the administrative control of the Ministry of Shipping, the non-major ports are under the jurisdiction of respective state maritime boards/state governments.

Will take some burden off Jawaharlal Nehru Port’

Vadhavan will be the third major port in Maharashtra after Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA) and Mumbai port. A second shipping ministry official said that both the ports face constraints in evacuation of cargo because of development of the city around it and limited depths in harbour allowing only small ships to berth. 

“The Jawaharlal Nehru Port is currently chock-a-block. Once Vadhavan is ready, it will take some of the burden off it (Jawaharlal Nehru Port),” a senior shipping ministry official told. 

A Special Purpose Vehicle — Vadhavan Port Project Limited (VPPL) — will be set up to develop the port. VPPL is a joint venture between the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (74 percent) and Maharashtra Maritime Board (25 percent). 

“Of the Rs 76,220 crore, the SPV will invest Rs 38,976 crore while private developers will invest the remaining Rs 37,344 crore,” a ministry official quoted earlier said.

The port will have nine container terminals, each around a kilometre long, four multipurpose berths, four liquid bulk berths, one Ro-Ro berth, one coastguard berth, among others.

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