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India: Gadkari’s Sagar port plan sinks as Didi pushes Tajpur project


The Shipping Ministry has dumped plans to build at new major port at Sagar Island in West Bengal after the State government categorically told the Centre that it was proceeding with a new greenfield port at Tajpur in West Midnapore district, about 50 kms away from Haldia dock of Kolkata Port Trust.

The ministry had was of the view that it would not proceed with the Sagar Island port project if Tajpur is to be developed by the State government. Accordingly, the fate of the Sagar Island was waiting for a final decision from the West Bengal government.

“The West Bengal government decided to go ahead with the Tajpur Port project which was communicated to Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari. That being the case, the minister said that we will drop Sagar Island project. Naturally, there is no scope for two new big ports in close vicinity, some 50-60 kms apart. There won’t be enough cargo for two ports to run viably,” said a Central government official familiar with the development.

G Krishnakumar, the officer on special duty (OSD) overseeing the Sagar port project, and the support staff were relieved from their duties on June 30, 2017.

“The Shipping Ministry officially decided to shelve the Sagar Island port project which would have been a major economic booster for West Bengal,” said the official mentioned earlier. “But, for public consumption, the Shipping Ministry will not say that it is dropping the Sagar Island project. It will say, Sagar project will be taken up only after Tajpur is completed,” he added.

Sagar Island was notified as a major port in June 2016 and a special purpose vehicle named Bhor Sagar Port Ltd was set up, with Kolkata Port Trust holding 74 per cent equity and the West Bengal government holding the remainder to build the new port, which is estimated to cost ₹1,464 crore in the first phase.

In August last year, the Public Investment Board approved a ₹515-crore grant/subsidy to Bhor Sagar Port Ltd for reclaiming land, dredging and erecting basic infrastructure for the new port. The Shipping Ministry had also drafted a proposal to secure Cabinet approval for the grant/scheme.

It was then that the West Bengal government-led by Mamata Banerjee swung into action to take up the Tajpur project as a State government project, putting it on a collision course with the union government.

“Kolkata Port has been facing challenges in terms of draft limitations, limited headroom for expansion and efficiency. The constraints have necessitated the need to have an alternative port near to sea, having sufficient draft and no river navigation, as it has been there in Kolkata Port,” a port industry executive said. Sagar Island has been selected after a detailed study of 8-9 sites for locating the port. “Tajpur is a much better site to build a natural deep draft port than Sagar Island,” he said.

The Shipping Ministry made a futile attempt to develop Tajpur port as a central sector project by seeking an assurance from the West Bengal government “to give a so-called right of first refusal to Bhor Sagar Port Ltd in case it decided to set up a new port in the State”.

But, this was not acceptable to the State government as this meant giving a 74 per cent stake to the Centre for developing Tajpur. West Bengal is looking to build Tajpur as a private port on the lines of Mundra, Pipavav, Krishnapatnam, Kattupalli, Dhamra, Karaikal and Gangavaram, among others.

Source: The Hindu Business Line 

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