L&T, Afcons, JSW vie for Nicobar project

Larsen and Toubro Ltd, Afcons Infrastructure Ltd and JSW Infrastructure Ltd are among the companies competing for construction 42,000-crore International Container Handling Terminal in Great Nicobar, two people aware of the development said, even as the project faces environmental hurdles.

The National Green Tribunal stayed on Saturday 72,000 crore Nicobar development plan that includes transshipment hub. The project has met opposition from environmentalists over possible damage to flora and fauna in the ecologically sensitive region. However, the government is keen to develop the mega terminal in a public-private partnership (PPP).

The Union Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal, said in an interview that the project would not affect the island ecology at all and the proposal was only made after the necessary studies had been carried out. He said the government will finalize the private player after evaluating the expressions of interest (EoIs). However, he did not name any interested parties.

Inquiries to spokespersons for the Port Department, L&T and JSW Infrastructure remained unanswered at the time of writing. Afcons infrastructure could not be reached immediately.

“Around 10 national and global players have responded to the EoIs targeted for the mega-project. These will be evaluated before deciding on the company that will develop this terminal according to the PPP model,” the minister said.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has appointed a panel led by the Union Secretary for the Environment to review the Department’s clearance for Great Nicobar Municipality and area development and other infrastructure projects covering 16,610 hectares. The expressions of interest are likely to be evaluated and finalized only after the project has been approved by this committee.

Sonowal said the transshipment hub will be completed in two phases, with the first phase building capacity for 4 million TEU containers (20-foot equivalent) and the second phase 16 million TEU. The investment in the first phase is expected to be around 18,000 crores and 24,000 crore in the second phase. On the environmental concerns, the minister said: “We have taken all reasonable measures. Any concerns raised have all been effectively addressed. Leatherback, mangrove, flora and fauna concerns were addressed. In order to keep the whole area eco-friendly and ensure better protection for all marine life, the Wildlife Institute of India, Botanical Survey of India and Zoological Survey of India have been entrusted with the monitoring of the affected flora and fauna. The project would not harm the sensitive ecology of the region and all concerns would be addressed in the development of the project.”

The minister also said that given the strategic location and importance of the island and the proposed terminals, all necessary checks would be carried out according to the existing guidelines regarding investments by private actors.

Detailed Project Reports (DPR) for the Great Nicobar projects would be sent to the Interior, Defense and Foreign Ministries for approval, the minister added.

Stressing the importance of the site, he said the planned transhipment point is only 14 nautical miles from the international sea route. The Great Nicobar Terminal would have a natural draft of 20 metres, which is sufficient to berth large ships of international liners.

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