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Gopalpur port project on track despite Noble’s pullout

Bhubaneswar, May 24 (IANS) The Rs.2,500-crore Gopalpur port project in Orissa is on track despite the Hong Kong-based Noble group’s decision to pull out from the project, government and port officials said Monday.

‘There is no threat to the project. It is on track,’ state commerce and transport secretary Satyabrata Sahu told IANS.

Gopalpur Port Limited (GPL), a consortium of three companies, had signed a pact with the Orissa government in 2006 to develop the port into an all-weather port on build, own, operate, share and transfer (BOOST) basis.

The companies who formed the consortium were the Noble group, Delhi-based Sara International and Orissa Stevedores Ltd, a Orissa- based company.

‘Noble group has recently written to the state government seeking approval for its exit as it is not involved in the project,’ Sahu said, adding the two other members of the consortium will take the project forward.

Richard Elman, executive chairman of Noble Group, Sunday said in a public notice that the group has sought approval from the government for its exit.

In an advertisement published in a section of local media here, the group also said it has communicated its decision to terminate its relationship with the project to the banks and financial institutions who have agreed to finance the project.

The Gopalpur port, about 170 km from here, is a seasonal port currently operational from November to March and handles cargo, including iron ore, coal and fertilizer ranging from half a million tonnes to 0.7 million tonnes.

‘According to the plan, the port is expected to be completed by 2012. It will have an installed capacity of handling at least 10 millions tonnes cargo,’ P.K. Panigrahi, GPL executive director, told IANS, adding that the withdrawal of Noble from the project will not impact the ongoing work of the port.

‘Noble group was not involved in the project from the beginning. They had not participated in any form by way of attending the board meeting or by investing money,’ he said.

‘Orissa Stevedores Ltd and Sara International ltd are capable of executing the project having 51 and 49 percent stake, respectively,’ Panigrahi said.

The port has recently announced financial closure of Rs.1,400 crore for the first phase of the project to be completed by the end of this year. The port has also signed a loan agreement with a consortium of 11 banks led by Punjab National Bank for a total loan of Rs.848.78 crore, he said.

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