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Good global response — Cochin container terminal re-bid by March

Sajeev Kumar V.

The Cochin international container terminal project, when completed, is expected to be vital to the maritime trade as it will open up a new gateway to a vast hinterland. Because of its geo-strategic locational advantage, Kochi has the potential to emerge as a regional hub in the Indian Ocean region.

A POSITIVE initial response from the global container terminal operators has prompted the Cochin Port Trust to work out an ambitious schedule for the re-bidding for the Cochin international container terminal project. The time limit for the issue of the firm order to the successful bidder has been set at March 2003.

The Union Shipping Minister and his team can take credit for the renewed interest evinced by the prospective terminal operators in the project. It appears that the roadshows in this regard in South-East Asia and West Asia have not been in vain.

Taking note of the mood of the international bidders insisting on operational freedom, the decision has been taken to have the project executed on Build Operate Transfer (BOT) basis, according to the Cochin Port Trust Chairman, Dr Jacob Thomas.

The international bidders which have shown interest in the project include AP Moeller, Hutchinson Port Holdings, CST Terminals, CMA-CGM and Dubai Port Authorities. P&O Ports, the lone respondent in the previous bid, can also participate in the re-bid, Dr Thomas said.

The progress of the work on connectivity through rail and road has brightened the prospect of the project. About 30 per cent of the work on the construction of the bridges linking the Vallarpadam and Puthuvypeen Islands has been completed. The bridges are expected to be ready for operation by October 2003. The National Highway Authority of India has completed the feasibility study for providing linkage to these islands. The railway authorities are conducting an engineering-cum-traffic survey for the rail linkage to the islands.

The Shipping Minister, the Chairman said, took stock of the progress of work relating to the re-bid programme during his recent visit to the port. At the interactive session with the port users, he outlined various challenges facing the implementation of the project but assured them of the Government support to have the project completed within the timeframe.

A team of officials from the Ministry is assisting the port officials in carrying out discussion with various agencies to sort out such issues as the flying funnel restrictions imposed by the Navy, and environmental clearances. Most of the questions raised by various agencies have been answered and final clearances are expected shortly. "There are no major impediments to the implementation of the project," Dr Thomas said.

Considering the importance of the project and the expectations generated over it, the port is trying to mobilise all its resources to ensure its implementation in a time bound manner. A high-power Transhipment Terminal Committee under Mr A. Janardhana Rao, Cochin Port Trust Deputy Chairman, has been constituted to expedite the preliminary work.

The global notification inviting tender for qualification has been released. The initial response to the notification put on the port's Web site has been encouraging. Inquiries have already started flowing in from Singapore, and Belgium as also through the local agents of several international operators.

The long-debated Cochin international container terminal project, when completed, is expected to be vital to the maritime trade as it will open up a new gateway to a vast hinterland. Because of its geo-strategic locational advantage, Kochi has the potential to emerge as a regional hub in the Indian Ocean region. This is perhaps the most promising aspect of the project.

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