MUMBAI : Our government has selected Captain Alok Mishra as the Managing Director of India Ports Global Ltd, the state-owned entity tasked with developing and running the strategically important and India-funded Chabahar port in Iran.
The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has cleared the candidature of Mishra for the full-time role, a year after the previous incumbent demitted office on September 18 last year.
Mishra is currently the Head Operations and Transformation Lead at Gateway Terminals India Pvt Ltd (GTI), which is 74 per cent owned by A P M Terminals Management B V, the container terminal operating unt of Danish transport and logistics giant A P Moller-Maersk A/S. GTI is one of the five container handling facilities operating at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT).
Mishra will have a five-year tenure in the role, according to a September 27 memorandum issued by the Department of Personnel and Training.
India’s participation in the development of Chabahar Port will provide India an alternative and reliable access route into Afghanistan utilising India’s earlier investment in building the Zaranj-Delaram highway in that country.
Located in the Sistan-Baluchistan Province on Iran’s South-eastern coast (outside Persian Gulf), Chabahar port gives India a sea-land access route into Afghanistan and Central Asia through Iran’s eastern borders. The project is considered a strategic venture for the development of regional maritime transit traffic into Afghanistan and Central Asia.
India Ports Global and Aria Banader Iranian Port & Marine Services Company (ABI) of Iran signed a deal in May 2016 to equip and operate the container and multi-purpose terminals at Shahid Beheshti – Chabahar Port Phase-I with a capital investment of $85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of $22.95 million on a 10-year lease. Cargo revenues collected will be shared by India and Iran as per an agreed formula.
The project has been bogged down by delays due to the US sanctions. Though the ten-year operation period is yet to start, India and Iran have operationalised the port through an annual short-term contract in the so-called zero period given the challenges over financing the purchase of key cargo handling equipment such as rail mounted quay cranes (RMQC).
RMQC’s play a vital role in loading and unloading cargo containers to and from ships.
Chabahar is also being built as a gateway to the East and West of the Caspian Sea as part of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).
The INSTC is a 7,200-km-long multi-modal network of sea, rail and road route for moving freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
India’s plan to erect four new rail mounted quay cranes (RMQC’s) or ship to shore cranes at Chabahar port has been delayed by more than three years as crane makers stay away from participating in a tender due to sanctions imposed on Iran, forcing India Ports Global Ltd to extend the bid deadline 18 times since September last year.
While the United States (US) has excluded Chabahar port from the sanctions list, potential crane manufacturers are not fully convinced.
By extending the date of the tender, India is also looking to buy time till the talks led by the European Union (EU), and including Russia and China, to broker an agreement between the US and Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, fructify and help lift the sanctions on Iran.
“If and when the sanctions are eased, it will be easy for India Ports Global to finalise the crane tender,” a government official said.
But delays in reviving the nuclear deal between US and Iran and easing of sanctions would further hurt the port project, which is running on an annual “short lease contract” for the last three years as the key cargo handling equipment has not been installed as per the agreement signed between Indian and Iran in 2016.
The take-over of Afghanistan by Taliban has also cast a shadow on the port project.