Kerala High Court stays Vizhinjam port development

December 4th, 2008 - 3:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Kochi (Kerala), Dec 4 (IANS) A division bench of the Kerala High Court Thursday asked the Kerala government not to proceed with the development of the proposed Rs.53.48 billion port at Vizhinjam near the famed tourist destination of Kovalam. The bench headed by Chief Justice H.L. Dattu asked a committee to look into the tender quotation given by Mumbai-based Zoom Developers, whose bid was not considered by the government citing technical objections.

The firm had petitioned a single member bench of the court a few months ago. After looking into the petition and the reply given by the state government, the judge then quashed the petition.

Following this, the firm approached the division bench and has now got a favourable verdict.

The court has directed the committee to look into the proposal of the firm within 15 days. Till then, no work will be undertaken at the port, which is being developed by a consortium headed by Hyderabad-based Lanco Kondapalli Power Private Ltd, Malaysia-based Pembinaan Redzai Sdn. Bhd. and Lanco Infrastructure Limited.

Legislator P.C. George, who had alleged that the tender proceedings were not transparent, told reporters after the verdict that he was glad the court has realized that the procedure of awarding tender for the development of the port was not fair.

“The project is being developed under the build operate transfer (BOT) scheme and will be handed over to the state government after 25 years. The company that has got the project had offered to pay the government Rs.330 million, while the Mumbai-based firm had offered Rs.3 billion,” George said.

State Ports Minister M. Vijayakumar brushed aside the allegations.

“George is saying things that the state government does not even know. With the intervention of the court, the project will be delayed. We will do as the court has asked because we have done everything in a proper manner,” Vijayakumar said.

This is the second time that an attempt to build the Vizhinjam port is being undertaken. During the previous Oommen Chandy government (2004-06), after selecting a consortium of two Chinese and a Mumbai firm through a global tender, the central government had at the last moment decided not to give its sanction citing security reasons.

At that time, the contract was won by a consortium led by Zoom Developers.

A major advantage of 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 local fishermen. The port will be able to handle 4.10 million containers annually.

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

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