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India: Centre steps in to build long-delayed Rewas port in Maharashtra

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd is set to lose the rights to develop and run an ambitious port project at Rewas in Maharashtra’s Raigad district, just 10 kms away from Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), as a long delay in building the port awarded in 2002 force the central government to take over the project.

Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari said in Mumbai on Monday that the centre will develop Rewas port, citing this as an example of the central government pitching in to develop infrastructure projects that have been delayed due to dilly-dallying by private investors.

“Mumbai Port Trust, JNPT and Maharashtra Maritime Board will jointly take over the development of Rewas port project,” said Mumbai Port Trust chairman Sanjay Bhatia. “ The plan is being discussed;. Reliance haven’t done the project,” he said.

Reliance Logistics & Ports Pvt Ltd, the logistics unit of Reliance Industries Ltd, holds a 55% stake in Rewas Port Ltd, the company formed to develop and operate an all-weather deep draught (depth) port at Rewas. Jai Corp. Ltd has a 10% stake in the port venture while Amma Lines Ltd holds a 24% stake. The balance equity of 11% is held by the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB).

First phase

The first phase of the new port to be constructed on inter-tidal and government land, involved 9 cargo-handling berths with a capacity to handle 66 million tons (mt) of cargo a year. The port was to start operations on a 50-year contract beginning October 2010. An agreement to develop and operate the port was signed in 2002.

MMB has transferred 839 hectares of inter-tidal zone (ITZ) land required for the project to Rewas Port.

Inter-tidal zone

Inter-tidal zone is the area between the land and sea that is covered by water at high tide and uncovered at low tide.

The ITZ land given to the port developer should be used only for port and allied activities, according to the port privatization policy of Maharashtra government.

Second phase

In the second phase, Rewas plan to add 16 more berths, taking the total cargo handling capacity to 198 million tonnes.

Ambani bought a majority stake in the port project from Amma Lines to provide infrastructure support to his planned Navi Mumbai SEZ, which has become a non-starter. The port project was stuck over lack of approval for right of way to the shipping channel.

Third phase

In the third and final phase, the port’s master plan provides for adding 45 more berths, expanding the total capacity to a whopping 457 million tons. The port will have a depth of 14.5 metres in the first phase which would be increased to 16 metres in the second and 20 metres in the third phase.

One of the key features of the planned port is that it will have a 27.75 km-long and 300 metres wide exclusive approach channel for the traffic meant for Rewas, located a few kms away from Mumbai port. This would ensure minimal waiting time for ships in the channel.

However, 17 of the 27.75 km-long navigational channel of Rewas falls within the limit of Mumbai port, one of the 12 owned by the central government. Mumbai port has to agree for sharing this portion of its navigational channel with the new port to allow free passage of ships calling at Rewas port to load and unload cargo.

Reliance could not be reached immediately for comment.

The centre’s plan develop Rewas comes at a time when JNPT is facing opposition from a local green group to build a satellite port at Vadhavan in Dahanu taluk of Palghar district. JNPT and MMB has signed an agreement to build the new port with JNPT holding a 74% stake.

The Dahanu Taluka Environment Protection Authority was set up to protect the ecologically sensitive zone.

Source: The Hindu Business Line 

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