Another body blow to Mumbai Port’s Container Terminal Project
Committee to be set up, as directed by the Bombay High Court, will consider the feasibility of maintaining 16 meter draft at Mumbai Port’s Offshore Container Terminal
Mumbai port’s first container terminal, Indira Container Terminal (ICTPL- the offshore terminal), a joint venture between Gammon India and Dragados of Spain which has been delayed by more than six years after the agreement was first signed in 2007 has received another body blow. Following a public interest litigation filed by D.M. Sukthankar, retired as Chief Secretary to the Government of Maharashtra and Vice Admiral I. C. Rao PVSM, AVSM, (Retd), the spokesman of Mumbai Docklands Regeneration Forum, the Bombay High Court took into consideration the contention of petitioners that it is technically not feasible to achieve and maintain the required draft of 16 meter in the berth pocket, in the absence of which the Offshore Container Terminal will not see the light of day.
After due diligence and following an undertaking given by the Mumbai Port Trust (one of the respondent whose obligation it is to complete the capital dredging) the Court issued an order of 8th October, 2013 directing the port to form a committee to consider carefully the views expressed by the petitioners and come to a decision within two months.
The issues which had been raised in the petition are essentially of a technical nature. Having due regard to the limitation on the jurisdiction of the Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India while exercising judicial review in such matters, the Port Trust was asked by the Court if it was ready and willing to constitute the committee to consider the view point of the petitioners.
Accordingly, the Court was informed that the Port Trust will constitute the committee which would consist of:
(i) The Chairman or, Dy. Chairman of Mumbai Port Trust;
(ii) A technical representative; and
(iii) A representative of the Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS).
The petitioners agreed to this course of action. It has been left open to the committee to fix its own modalities including if need be and if so felt, to consult other appropriate stake holders or bodies, including the Ministry of Shipping, government of India. The Court has been assured that the views of the petitioners would be carefully borne in mind and a final decision arrived at.
According to Vice Admiral I. C. Rao (Retd), Jaisu Shipping, the dredging contractor could not complete even the first phase of the dredging scheduled to be done in 6 months, despite several attempts over 3 years, and has been forced to file for bankruptcy. No dredging has been undertaken since Feb 2013. The new tender has had no bidders between 5 Sep and 3 Oct despite postponements. The next bidding date is 18 October 2013. The fate of the tender is uncertain. The dredged areas have re-silted by about 4 meters and the depth at the berth is 11 m from the 15 m achieved partially by Jaisu Shipping in Apr 2012. The depth at the approach channel is between 8 m and 11 m instead of minimum of 13.5 m. So no navigable channel has been created despite expenditure of $ 46.7 million.
If it is decided that the Container Terminal is not viable, Mumbai will have a god sent opportunity to have a cruise ship terminal, passenger ferries, commuter ferries, a marina as well as berths and repair facilities for coastal vessels and the Coast Guard - all more profitable than a flawed container terminal.
Over the years the port has lost a major portion of the dry cargo it handled to other ports in the region especially the private ports that have been springing up steadily. The number of containers it handles presently which is around 40,000 TEU per annum is just about one-third of what it handled a decade ago. Shipping companies prefer Mundra, Pipavav and JNPT, which have much better drafts. The performance figures released recently by the port paint a gloomy picture for liquid cargo as well, for the city’s refineries.