JNPA is relocating the new port in Vadhavan to an offshore location

The state-owned Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA) is planning to build a megaport at Vadhavan near Dahanu in the Palghar district of Maharashtra on an offshore site instead of the previous onshore site, in a change that will require large-scale reclamation, material is sourced from sand pits off the coast of Daman, some 50km away.

The scope of Terms of Reference (ToR) for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study for the new port, issued by the Government’s Expert Advisory Committee (EAC) in October 2020, included the reclamation and landfill of 1,473 hectares of land using landfill, which required 86.88 million cubic meters.

However, due to the shift in port layout to an offshore location, the actual need for reclamation is estimated at around 200 million cubic meters.

Sources said that JNPA decided to relocate the port of Vadhavan overseas due to problems related to procurement of materials for reclamation.

“Considering the much higher need for reclamation material for the new port, it was decided that the fill material would be extracted from sea pits off the coast of Daman instead of earth fill, due to the ecological sensitivity of the region,” one person further said of the plan.

The JNPA has requested changes to the terms of reference due to the change in the port’s master plan and the change in procurement of offshore sand quarry reclamation material, the person said.

After discussing the proposed changes at a February/March meeting, the EAC noted that the “proposal cannot be considered at this time as the overall scope and configuration (of the previous remits) has changed”. It advised the port authority to revise the final project report “taking into account the current scope of work with all parameters and submit it to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change for further consideration”.

“The information provided in this way should be presented to the committee so that additional tasks for the project can be considered in due course,” says the minutes of the EAC meeting.

Building a new port in Vadhavan is key to JNPA’s expansion plans.

“We have restrictions on expansion in Nhava Sheva (where JN Port is located); That is why we are developing Vadhavan Port,” said JNPA Chairman Sanjay Sethi.

JNPA has five container handling facilities with a capacity of 7.6 million twenty-foot units (TEU) per year.

India’s busiest state-owned container port and the country’s second-busiest handled 6.05 million TEUs in FY23, a growth of 6.45 percent.

PSA International Pte Ltd-operated Bharat Mumbai Container Terminals Pvt Ltd (BMCT) in Singapore, one of the five container terminals operating at JN Port, has started work on the second phase of the terminal, which will add another 2.4 by 2025 million TEU will add the total container handling capacity at JNPA to 10 million TEU.

“With the speed and efficiency at which JN Port operates, we will be full in three years.

We have already reached 80 percent of our current capacity. Even if the capacity increases to over 10 million TEU by 2025, we will reach full capacity in 2028, what then? We need a new port to meet demand,” added Unmesh Wagh, Vice Chairman of the JNPA.

The Port Authority will build the new port through a joint venture with the Maharashtra Maritime Board with equity holdings of 74 percent and 26 percent, respectively. The new port is estimated to cost Rs 73,894 crores.

As a lessor, JNPA will invest around Rs 42,266 crore to build basic infrastructure such as breakwater, dredging, reclamation, land acquisition, rail/yard and road links, power and water lines, internal roads and common facilities.

Private companies will invest about Rs 15,157 crore in the first phase and Rs 16,471 crore in the second phase to set up cargo handling facilities.

The new port will be designed to handle around 254 million tonnes (mt) of cargo, including 9.87 million TEU, according to an “in principle” approval from the Union Cabinet.

Wagh said the Port Authority will source reclamation material for the construction of Vadhavan Port from the sea off the Daman coast.

“We take the reclamation material out of the sea and bring it into the sea for the construction of the new port; we don’t get it from the land side as foreseen in the earlier assignment. It is environmentally friendly and economical. Studies have shown that the material to be sourced from the Daman Coast is amenable to reclamation,” Wagh said.

When the original task was assigned in 2020, this was not planned. “In two years it has evolved. It’s a small change, but a positive change,” he added.

According to port industry sources, several alternatives are “part of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies” for the construction of a new port.

“One of the alternatives for the port of Vadhavan requires procuring more reclamation material from the land. Since this would be considered environmental degradation, it was decided to source the material from the Daman Coast. It needs to be included in the ToR, so the JNPA is seeking changes to the ToR,” said the person briefed on the aforementioned matter, adding that the Ministry of Mines is “ready” to review the source material to provide Daman coast.

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