Alba-CoalIssues relating to environmental clearance have been hindering at least two expansion projects at Tamil Nadu’s V.O. Chidambaranar Port Trust (VOC Port), formerly known as Tuticorin Port Trust. The projects affected are the North Cargo Berth-3 and North Cargo Berth-4, each with an annual handling capacity of 9.15 million tonnes. Both projects are coming on PPP basis with Hyderabad-based Transstroy India selected as the concessionaire. NCB-3, costing Rs.420 crore, will handle coal and rock phosphate whereas NCB-4 will handle coal and copper concentrate, with a project cost of Rs.355 crore.

For NCB-3, the environmental clearance was obtained in January 2015 and the private concessionaire was asked to take over the project site. However, as the clearance was conditional, the concessionaire declined from taking over the project and requested an unconditional clearance. The matter is currently with the Attorney General of India. The NCB-4 project also does not have an unconditional environmental clearance and is similarly stuck.

Projectmonitor got in touch with Transstroy India but the company did not wish to comment on their projects at VOC. Meanwhile, VOC Port Trust signed a formal agreement with Unison Project Management in the first week of October for the North Cargo Berth-3 project. The Pune-based company has been appointed as independent engineer for the project with the work order issued in April this year. An official of Unison told Projectmonitor that while the appointment was formalized, the “kick-off” meeting—signaling formal commencement of work—was awaited.

Transstroy India is also involved with developing a shallow water berth for handling cement and related raw materials. The concession agreement was signed way back in April 2013 and the concessionaire took over the project in January 2015, according to information available on the VOC Trust’s official website. However, as the concessionaire had not fulfilled some conditions precedent, the port trust is contemplating terminating the concession agreement.

On the positive side, the North Cargo Berth-2 project is making swift progress and is likely to be commissioned in the near future. This PPP project is being developed by ALBA, a joint venture between ABG Ports Ltd and French company Louis Dreyfus Armateurs SAS. The berth is designed to handle up to 14 million tonnes of coal per year, serving the steel and power industries in the hinterland. According to information available, over 90 per cent of the construction work is complete and currently, VOC Port Trust is carrying out capital dredging works. The ABG Group is also involved in developing a container terminal with 75,000 TEUs of annual handling capacity by converting the existing Berth No.8 at the Tuticorin port. This terminal started provisional operations in May 2014 but there were some security issues following purchase and deployment of China-made cranes. The issue is since resolved.

VOC Port Trust has at least six PPP projects under various stages of development. Currently, the only fully operational PPP asset is the container terminal operated by a joint venture of PSA International and Sical Logistics, awarded in 1998. This container terminal with 4.5 lakh TEUs of annual handling capacity was built by converting Berth No.7 at the port.

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