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Srei to help find port partner

Bhubaneswar, May 31: The Orissa government has asked Srei Infrastructure Finance Limited to help find a strategic operator to turn the fair-weather Gopalpur port to an all-weather one.

Last year, five leading infrastructure development companies ' BHP-Billiton, Malaysia’s Integrax Burhart, Larsen & Toubro, Infrastructure Leasing Finance Services and Orissa Stevedors ' had expressed interest to develop the port in response to a global tender floated by the Orissa government.

While Billiton and Burhart wanted to develop the port on their own, the three others bid as members of separate consortia.

Rail India Techno Economic Services (Rites), adviser to the state government for the project, would evaluate the bids by August-end. Sources said the government feels that these companies are technically not qualified to undertake the work of a strategic partner for the port.

In a letter to Srei on May 19, commerce and transport secretary Rajlaxmi requested its assistance in identifying a strategic operator for the port. “Though five parties have bid for the tender, we have asked Srei to scout for more as it widens our choice of an ideal partner,” Rajlaxmi told The Telegraph.

Considering the expertise of Srei, sources said a wider pool of companies would make the tender more competitive.

In 2004, the Orissa government had decided to develop Gopalpur on a BOOST basis after the deal with Ahmedabad-based Adani Exports fell through in 2003.

Goplapur is a fair-weather port, which is operational only from October to March each year. It has been handling cargo such as fertilisers, foodgrains and minerals of Indian Rare Earth Limited.

This is a minor port and the strategic operator will have to sign an MoU with the state government. The concession agreement for the project will be for 30 years with a mutually agreeable extension of another 20 years.

The government said the existing fixed infrastructure will be leased at an annual rent of Re 1. The developer will have the freedom to set and revise tariffs for the services offered at the port. It will give a certain percentage of the gross income earned from the port to the state.

Apart from Gopalpur, another major port being developed is Dhamra, north of Paradip, which will be completed by 2008. But since the Dhamra port will be a captive port, to be set up jointly by Tata Steel and L&T, the state is keener to develop the one at Gopalpur.

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