India’s Shipping Ministry plans to start construction of the first phase of the international trans-shipment port at Galathea Bay in the Great Nicobar island, off Bay of Bengal, “next year”, a senior official aware of the discussions told businessline.

The DPR of the project is under finalisation and the tenders for construction will be invited over the next two-to-three months.

To be developed on a public private partnership (PPP) basis, the proposed international container trans-shipment port is estimated to cost ₹44,000 crore. It will come up in four phases having a total capacity of 16 million TEUs (twenty equivalent units). The entire port will be commissioned by 2058.

According to officials, the Finance Ministry has already given an in-principle approval to the project, while environment clearances were received in November 2022.

“By next year, construction on Phase 1 of the Galathea Bay trans-shipment port project should start. In the next two–to– three months, the tendering process should be underway and done,” the official said.

Strategic location

Under phase 1, which is expected to be operational by 2028, nearly 4 million TEUs will be handled.

Construction work like creating breakwaters, dredging, reclamation, berths, storage areas, building and utilities, procurement and installation of equipment, and development of port colony falls under phase 1. Core infrastructure is going to be developed with the government support. The Shipping Ministry will follow a landlord model.

To be located strategically between Singapore and Colombo – two major trans-shipment ports on the international sea trade / shipping route with a proximity of around 40 nautical miles – Galathea Bay port will act as a feeder to these; apart from tapping cargo to Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Nearly 75 per cent of India’s transhipped cargo is handled in ports outside of the country, specially by Colombo.

Union Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal, also reviewed the project progress, met locals and other stakeholders in the area apprising them of the project timelines.

“The proposed Galathea Bay Port, due to its strategic location in proximity to the East-West shipping corridor of the world, is suitable to attract both gateway and trans-shipped cargo,” Sonowal said.

Interest from international players

An EoI floated by the Ministry saw interest from “at least” 10 interested companies. And a “few more”, including international players, had reached out to the Ministry seeking additional time for submission of bids.

Some of the names who have expressed interest include Adani Ports and SEZ, JSW Infra, RVNL (Rail Vikash Nigam Ltd), Container Corporation, among others. On the international side, Dutch dredging major Royal Boskalis Westminister is one to have put in EoI. Ports in the country would also need to have higher draft available to accommodate larger vessels.

“Five ports – that include Deendayal, Vadhavan, Tuiticorin, Galathea Bay and Paradeep to have draft in the range of 18 meters to 23 meters by 2030,” the Minister said adding that three ports that include Navi Mumbai, Cochin and Jawaharlal Nehru Port would be drafted in the range of 20 meters to 23 meters by 2047 in order to align with global standards.