Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Apr 15, 2004
Supply Chain Management
Logistics - Shipping
Government - Politics
NCP to make poll issue of Maersk bid for JNPT terminal
Mr Sharad Pawar, President, Nationalist Congress Party, addressing a press conference in Mumbai on Wednesday. - Shashi Ashiwal
Mumbai , April 14
THE formidable shipping fleet of Maersk would have weathered many a storm in high seas, but this is one `storm' that even the world's largest shipping liner is perhaps unprepared to face.
Maersk, which has emerged as the highest bidder for the Rs 1,000-crore third container terminal project at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port in association with Concor, appears to be getting caught in the eye of a `political storm' in India.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Chief, Mr Sharad Pawar, announced at a press conference on Wednesday that Maersk's bagging the JNPT box terminal project would be one of his party's major poll issue.
In NCP's view, a foreign company operating in the backyard of the Indian Navy's sensitive defence installations was a matter of "grave security concern," according to Mr Pawar.
Not only this, but the party would also seek to highlight its view that the JNPT and the Government were getting a raw deal from Maersk, as the port's revenue share "is a pittance," he said.
This, however, is not the first time that a port privatisation project is being questioned from the defence perspective. The Navy had raised similar objections when the Chandrababu Naidu-Government declared its intention to hand over the Gangavaram port project near Visakhapatnam to a foreign operator.
The Navy's contention then was that as Vizag, which is the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command, was the base for warships, submarines and other naval installations, the presence of a foreign company in the backyard could pose a threat to national security.
In the case of JNPT, the area supports the Navy's biggest missile, torpedo and ammunition storage and supply depot on the western seaboard in the close vicinity, apart from sharing a common sea front with Bhaba Atomic Research Centre, considered a `high terrorist risk zone,' which is barely 1,500 metres from the port, according to a statement issued by NCP.
However, when contacted, an official of JNPT said that it had already taken a no-objection certificate from the Navy for allowing a foreign company to operate its third box terminal.
Thus, even while the Election Commission has put on hold the award of the contract to Maersk due to the moral code of conduct for elections, the NCP's move is likely to raise fresh dust over the issue.
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