Friday, 11 August 2017

India aims to operationalise Chabahar Port by 2018

India aims to operationalise Chabahar Port by 2018

The government of India has reiterated its commitments to develop Chabahar Port in south-eastern Iran. The Minister of Shipping and Transport, Nitin Gadkari was invited in Tehran to represent India at the taking over of office by President Hassan Rouhani for the second term. Nitin Gadkari had a meeting with Iran delegation where the development of Chabahar Port was on the top agenda. ‘The government is keen on developing Chabahar Port and is hopeful of starting operations by 2018’ said the minister.

The civil works are progressing and tenders worth Rs 380 crores for the procurement of rail-mounted gantry cranes have been finalized, and efforts are under way to award contracts for other assets such as rubber-tire gantry cranes, reach stackers, empty handlers, and tractor-trailers. India plans to conduct business with Afghanistan via Chabahar Port. Indian officials are mulling a railway line link between Chabahar Port and Zahedan, an Iranian city near Afghanistan border for fast movement of goods.

Export Import Bank of India has agreed to issue $150 million credit facility for the development of Chabahar Port. The formal application is pending from Iran and both countries agreed to expedite the process. Further, India conveyed its readiness to help Iran begin interim operations at the port until concession contract conditions are fulfilled. Other issues that arose during the meeting include ratification of a trilateral transit treaty between India, Iran, and Afghanistan, where Tehran is yet to join.

In last week of July, Indian authorities have issued fresh Request for Quotation tender for the operation and management of container and multi-purpose cargo facilities at Chabahar Port. The winner will also design, develop, finance, operate, and maintain any other support infrastructure required for the efficient operation of the project, according to a tender notice issued by India Ports Global Ltd (IPGL). IPGL is a special purpose entity of JNPT Port and Kandla Port. Adani Ports & SEZ and Essar Ports Ltd has expressed interests to develop Chabahar Port. IPGL stated that construction of both terminals is nearing completion and the process for procuring equipment for the two terminals by IPGL is currently underway.

The RFQ notice is uploaded to JNPT website. The notice states, “Chabahar Port situated in the Sistan-Baluchistan province on Iran’s south-eastern coast [outside the Persian Gulf] is of great strategic importance for the development of regional maritime transit traffic to Afghanistan and Central Asia,”. Bids will be closed on 18 August 2017.

Chabahar Port is located in the Gulf of Oman, and is about 550 nautical miles from Kandla and 700 nautical miles from JNPT Port, Navi Mumbai. Chabahar Port will create a direct sea route to Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, bypassing Pakistan. With port in place, India can also go ahead with long pending TAPI gas pipeline, excluding Pakistan out and adding Iran. Experts are of an opinion that India’s investment in Chabahar comes at a time when China is investing billions of yuan to develop Gwadar Port and Hambantota Port in the Indian Ocean. India, being the regional superpower wants to maintain its strategic interests and prove its dominance in South East Asia.

- Chaitanya Kulkarni

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