Defence ministry nod for Kerala’s Vizhinjam port

August 5th, 2008 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 5 (IANS) With the defence ministry giving its clearance for the proposed Rs.53.48 billion port at Vizhinjam near the tourist destination of Kovalam, a major step forward has been taken for a project that has remained on paper for more than a decade. The clearance, however, has come with a rider: that Indian Navy ships be allowed to berth at the port whenever required and that an officer of the Kochi-based Southern Naval Command be inducted onto the port’s board to look after security-related issues.

The proposal will now have to be cleared by the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing but Kerala Ports Minister M. Vijayakumar Tuesday expressed confidence this would not take time.

“I personally called up (Defence Minister A.K.) Antony and thanked him for his efforts. Now the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing have to give their security clearance too,” Vijaykumar told reporters here.

“With the defence ministry clearance obtained, we are confident the security clearance will only be a formality. Once we get that, then we will sign an MoU with the consortium that has been selected through a global tender for commencing work,” the minister added.

The government May 23 gave the nod to a consortium headed by Hyderabad-based Lanco Kondapalli Power Private Ltd, Malaysia-based Pembinaan Redzai Sdn. Bhd. and Lanco Infrastructure Limited to implement the project in two phases.

This is the second time the exercise to build the Vizhinjam port is being undertaken. During the previous Oommen Chandy government (2004-06) a consortium of two Chinese and a Mumbai firm had been selected through a global tender.

However, the central government in 2006 declined to approve the project on grounds of security as the Chinese companies had business interests in Pakistani ports.

A major advantage of Vizhinjam port will be that with a natural depth of 24 metres - among the deepest in the world - it would not require any dredging. Its other advantage is that it lies very close to a busy international shipping route.

To be built over 150 acres with no displacement of local fishermen, the port will be able to handle over four million containers annually.

Once fully operational, the port would create 5,000 direct and 150,000 indirect jobs.

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