Proposed box port at Vadhavan to relieve JNPT faces green opposition

THE western Indian state of Maharashtra is gearing up to develop a mega container port to be constructed at a cost of INR655

16 February 2020 - 19:00

THE western Indian state of Maharashtra is gearing up to develop a mega container port to be constructed at a cost of INR655.45 billion (US$9.2 billion) at Vadhavan, 160 kilometres from Mumbai.

However, two local environmental bodies, Vadhavan Bandar Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti (VBVSS) and Dahanu Taluka Environment Protection Authority (DTEPA), oppose the proposal of the BJP-led central government to create the massive, deepwater port at Vadhavan, near Dahanu in Palghar district on the Gujarat border.

The long-pending plan was cleared on February 5 at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, reported Seatrade Maritime News, Colchester, UK.

At the moment, the largest container port in India is Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), which sits in the 28th position among the world's top container ports, with annual throughput of 5.1 million TEU. After the completion of its fourth container terminal in 2023, its capacity will increase to 10 million TEU, making it the 17th biggest container port in the world.

However, JNPT's biggest problem is an alongside draught of just 15 metres. Even Mundra, further north on the western Indian coastline, has a maximum draught of 16 metres, and can handle only mid-size containerships, making it impossible for mainline operators on the East- West routes to call with vessels of 15,000 TEU and upwards which have become the norm on Asia-Europe trade lanes.

'There is need for a deep-draughted port that can accommodate the largest container ships in the world, and also cater to the spillover traffic after JNPT's planned capacity of 10 million TEU is fully utilised,' said Indian Shipping Minister Mansukh Mandaviya. The Vadhavan port has a natural draught of 20 metres close to the shore.

'The central government will have a 51 per cent share of the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that will be formed with JNPT as the lead partner, for the execution of the Vadhavan project on the 'landlord' model,' said Mr Mandaviya. 'The Maharashtra maritime board and private players can have the rest of the equity in the SPV.'

The SPV will develop the port infrastructure, including reclamation, construction of breakwater and establishing connectivity to the hinterland, while all the business activities will be undertaken on a public-private partnership model by private developers.

'The development of Vadhavan port will enable larger container vessels of 16,000-25,000 TEU capacity to call, giving advantages of economies of scale and reducing logistics costs,' said Mr Mandaviya. 'The container traffic in the JNPT hinterland is expected to grow up to 10.1 million TEU by 2022-2025, which will be its saturation point.'

However, the Greens, led by the VBVSS, called the government's clearance of the Vadhavan proposal wrong, given that the matter was still in the Supreme Court. The DTEPA had, in 2017, ruled that the port could not be located at the site selected for it, as it would seriously damage the environment.


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