Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government on Monday inked an agreement with Adani Ports for the proposed Vizhinjam port, 25 years after the project was first mooted.
The agreement for the construction of the port was signed between state Ports Secretary James Varghese and Adani Vizhinjam Port Private Limited CEO Santhosh Kumar Mahapatra in the Durbar Hall of the state secretariat.
The central government too will participate in the project, to be completed in three phases at a cost of around Rs.7,525 crore.
Though the first phase is expected to be ready in four years, Adani Ports officials have told Chief Minister Oommen Chandy they would finish it in around two years.
After the signing of the agreement, Adani Ports chief Gautam Adani said the Vizhinjam port would be made functional in less than 1,000 days.
“We will make Vizhinjam one of the world’s largest mega transhipment container terminals. Vizhinjam is our 8th port in India. We have already initiated the planning and engineering work on this project. We promised to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy that we will kick off the construction on November 1, 2015, the Kerala foundation day. Our objective is to make the port operational in a record time of less than 1,000 days,” Adani said.
Chandy said it was a historic occasion since the port project was the largest investment in any one project in the state.
“We are committed to clear all doubts and fears about the project. We assure of our complete support for Adani Ports also,” the chief minister said.
Early in the day, Adani called on the top political leaders of Kerala ahead of the signing of the agreement.
Adani, who arrived here along with a 10-member team, first called on Chandy and his cabinet colleagues.
“This was a pre-agreement meeting. We will go ahead with this project and talk to all those who have expressed concerns about the project. All concerns would be addressed,” Chandy said after the meeting.
“Funds for the project are not a concern,” state Finance Minister K.M. Mani said.
Adani then drove to the official residence of leader of the opposition, V.S. Achuthanandan, and remained with him for 20 minutes.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) on Sunday termed the MoU a “rip-off”.
Adani later held meetings with the state BJP leaders.
Speaking to reporters after the signing of the agreement, Adani said he had sought the blessings of Achuthanandan.
“I do not want to enter into political issues but he assured us of his cooperation. He said he is not against the project,” Adani said.
He said one cannot compare this port with Vallarpadom Container Terminal in Kochi.
“Vizhinjam has lots of natural advantages. We are sure we can operate it at a much lower cost than Kochi port,” Adani said, adding that he did not expect any problem of competition with the Colombo port.
Once completed, the port would enable ships with a capacity of even 18,000 TEU (20-feet equivalent units) to dock.
TEU is an inexact unit of cargo capacity often used to describe the capacity of container ships and container terminals.
The proposed port, located close to the busy international shipping route, is envisaged to handle 4.1 million containers annually.
Adani Ports was the lone bidder and sought Rs.1,635 crore as grant for the project. It would operate the port for 40 years, extendable by another 20 years.
The state government would get a portion of the revenue from the port after 15 years of operations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to lay the foundation stone of the project on November 1, Kerala’s formation day.
“November is a long way from now; so we have not thought of whom to bring in for the commencement of the work,” Adani said.