Consortium of banks sought for Vizhinjam port

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 16 (IANS) Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan Tuesday said a consortium of banks has been envisaged to raise Rs.2,500 crore as initial funding for the proposed port at Vizhinjam near here.

‘State Bank of Travancore has been asked to take the lead to start talks with all the banks in the state to see that they raise this amount which would be treated as a loan for the proposed port project,’ Achuthanandan said after the weekly cabinet meeting.

He had inaugurated the work for a connecting road to the proposed Vizhinjam International Container Terminal in August, signalling the launch of the work for the first phase of the proposed over Rs.60 billion-port.

The state government has committed to develop the basic infrastructure, which includes rail and road connectivity to the port site, and has set aside Rs.450 crore for the purpose.

The Vizhinjam port is to come up near the tourist destination of Kovalam. The proposed site has a natural depth of 24 metres – one of the deepest in the world and hence requiring no dredging.

It will be located close to a busy international shipping route, and is envisaged to handle 4.1 million containers annually.

The project has been hanging fire for well over nearly a decade. During the tenure of Oommen Chandy as chief minister 2004-06, the foundation stone was to be laid by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but it had to be cancelled due to security reasons.

It got the necessary clearances for the second time last year but Hyderabad-based Lanco Kondapalli, which had won the bid to build the port, withdrew from the project – citing indefinite delays and possible legal tangles.

The state government said in the assembly’s last session that work on the proposed port will begin during the tenure of the present Left government.

A top official of the State Bank of Travancore said only the formal request from the government has come.

‘We will call a meeting of top officials who handle the advances of all the banks in the state. It is too early to make any sort of commitment on when and how this proposal would go ahead, but we will do our best,’ the official said, requesting anonymity.

The land required for the project is placed under the fast track programme, new power lines are being drawn, the railway track to the port has been cleared by the Southern Railway and the Water Authority is working on new pipelines to be laid to bring drinking water to the project area.

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