BANGALORE/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: RELIANCE Industries (RIL) is likely to join the race for the $1-billion Vizhinjam port on the Kerala coast, with the state government deciding to call for fresh tenders, sources said. RIL was looking at participating in a major port project on the west coast which could rival Colombo’s prominence, and hence the early interest in Vizhinjam International Seaport (VISL) that falls on the international shipping line, sources added. RIL’s substantial exports, both dry and liquid operations, are mainly driven through large jetties at Dahej and Hazira. Further, RIL is also developing Rewas Port closer to its mega SEZ projects in Navi Mumbai.When contacted, an RIL spokesperson declined to comment.
The private sector behemoth’s interest was in initial stages and it was premature to comment on what progress it would make, sources said. But multiple sources said RIL could be among those who show initial interest when the state kicks off the new tender process in the coming months as it was showing interest in other port projects on the west coast.
Former BPL Mobile promoter and infrastructure entrepreneur Rajeev Chandrasekhar has already signaled interest in Vizhinjam project located near Kovalam, which has been in the making for over a decade now. The Kerala government has initiated moves for re-tendering the Vizhinjam port project, after previous round of bidding for the project had to be dropped because of the Centre’s disinclination to clear the winning bid involving a Chinese consortium on security concerns. The previous round bidding saw 16 firms, including Port Authority of Singapore, showing interest in the Rs 4,360-crore project.
VISL officials said the re-tender was expected to be floated within a few months. They said the request for proposal (RFP) documents for the project were being revised and that tenders would be called for once that exercise was completed. IL&FS has been entrusted the job of the RFP revision, VISL officials said.
The Kerala government proposes to have equity participation in the project and had also sought viability gap funding from the Centre. The first phase of the project involving close to Rs 2,000 crore is scheduled to be completed in three years after obtaining the Centre’s clearance.However, a section of the observers believes that the future of Vizhinjam port could be in jeopardy with Tamil Nadu pushing for a similar project at Kolachel just about 40 km away. The move could strip the strategic locational advantage of Vizhinjam on the international shipping line.