Port giants dock at Indian harbour

Port majors in countries like China, France and Britain are keen to invest in Indian ports. This could be towards setting up greenfield projects, improving productivity at existing ports and setting up other facilities like container terminals and roads. Total investment, expected to cross Rs 10,000 crore over one year, would help private and government port authorities use new technology and expedite implementation of schemes, said a senior official with a private port. Some of the deals could be in the form of JVs with foreign ports. FDI up to 100% is allowed under automatic route for construction and maintenance of ports and harbours.Sources familiar with the development said that Jurong Port Authority of China has firmed up plans to set up a greenfield port in the east coast with Sical Logistics, involving an initial investment of Rs 1,500 crore. Similarly, Mumbai Port Trust is entering into a sister port agreement with the Port of Marseille-Fos of France while the Irish Port Authority is likely to invest in Jaigarh Port in Maharashtra.According to a senior official with the infrastructure advisory committee of KPMG, “The main idea of foreign collaboration is to enhance the business skills of major Indian ports. Collaboration with the foreign ports will not only enrich Indian ports technologically, but also enable them to operate from anywhere in the world.” Notably, Mundra Port has already signed an MoU with Antwerp Port Authority to absorb some of the international port management practices. A few years ago, multinationals like DP World and Maersk had invested in container terminals in local ports like JNPT and Pipavav. Private sector investments in nonmajor ports have already increased with investments in Mundra, Pipavav, Hazira, Gangavaram and Krishnapatnam, among others. However, Indian ports still face various constraints like hinterland connectivity, inland cargo handling capability and shortage of skilled manpower for port operations. “There is a need for policy changes in the port sector. In terms of infrastructure policy, we are still far away from developed countries,” said an analyst. He said large stateowned port authorities should get adequate autonomy in decision-making, a change that will attract more foreign investment. India has 12 major ports, six each on the west and east coasts, and about 45 functioning non-major ports.

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