Supreme Court asks Kerala to accept Zoom’s Vizhinjam port tender

February 10th, 2009 - 6:54 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 10 (IANS) The Kerala government Tuesday suffered a setback as the Supreme Court upheld the Kerala High Court’s verdict asking it to consider Zoom Developers’ tender quotation for the Rs.53.48 billion Vizhinjam port project.

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government had, through a tender, awarded the port project to a consortium of the Hyderabad-based Lanco Kondapalli Power Ltd, Malaysia-based Pembinaan Redzai Sdn Bhd and Lanco Infrastructure Ltd and for technical reasons did not consider the proposal of Zoom, which then went to court.

Following the firm’s petition, a division bench of the high court last year asked the state government to consider the Zoom proposal too. The state refused to do so and challenged the ruling in the Supreme Court.

A division bench of the Supreme Court Tuesday asked the Kerala government to make all arrangements in 15 days to facilitate Zoom to submit its tender.

The Congress-led opposition in the state had raised the port tender issue in the assembly in November and demanded a a judicial inquiry.

After the Supreme Court ruling, Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy told reporter in Thiruvananthapuram that the LDF government owes an explanation why it challenged the high court ruling when it was clear that it had messed up the tendering process.

“Zoom Developers in its quotation had said it would pay the government after 10 years a sum of Rs.447 crore (Rs.4.47 billion) if they were given the contract, and instead the project was given to Lanco, which has offered just Rs.115 crore (Rs.1.15 billion). Kerala would have lost Rs.332 crore had the courts not intervened,” said Chandy.

State Ports Minister M. Vijayakumar told reporters the government would look into the verdict and decide further course of action.

“This is not a setback for the government. There is a lobby here working against the Vizhinjam port,” he said .

Chandy, however, said if there is a lobby it is in the government itself.

Senior opposition legislator P.C. George, who was the first to allege corruption in the contract, demanded the immediate resignation of Vijayakumar.

“He should resign, otherwise (Chief Minister V.S.) Achuthanandan should oust him at the earliest,” George told reporters.

The project is being developed under the build-operate-transfer (BOT) scheme and will be handed over to the state government after 30 years.

A major advantage of the Vizhinjam port is that it needs no dredging. The natural depth is 24 meters, one of the deepest in the world.

Another advantage is that the proposed port lies very close to a busy international shipping route. It is to be built on an area of 150 acres and there will be no displacement of fishermen. The port will be able to handle 4.1 million containers annually.

The port, once ready, would create 5,000 direct and 150,000 indirect jobs.

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