In early 2023, it was announced that a new container transshipment hub would be developed at Galathea Bay in the Great Nicobar Islands. The project has received a lot of attention from international players who are interested in participating in the bidding process. The total budget for the project is INR 48,000 crore, and so far, at least 10 companies have expressed their interest.
The Syama Prasad Mookherjee Port in Kolkata initiated the request for Expressions of Interest (EoIs) in January 2023 as part of the Integrated Container Transshipment Port (ICTP) project. The officials stated that the transshipment port would allow large ships to anchor, increase India’s share in maritime trade, create job opportunities, and save foreign exchange.
Some notable companies that have submitted EoIs for the project include Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ), JSW Infra, Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL), and Container Corporation. On the international front, Dutch dredging company Royal Boskalis Westminster has also expressed interest in participating in the bidding process.
The project will be executed in four phases between 2028 and 2058 and is expected to handle 16 million containers per year in its final stage. The first phase will have a jetty length of 1.6 kilometers and a capacity of 4.3 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit (TeU) containers. The estimated cost for the first phase is INR 18,000 crore, and the necessary clearances and approvals are currently being processed.
In addition, the Haldia multi-modal terminal, implemented by the Inland Waterways Authority of India, will be inaugurated soon. This terminal will enhance cargo movement through inland waterways to the northeastern region and Bangladesh from Haldia port, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Syama Prasad Mookherjee Port in Kolkata.
The development of the Nicobar Port may follow the “landlord” model, where the publicly governed port authority acts as a regulatory body while private companies handle port operations, particularly cargo handling. The port authority will retain ownership of the port, while infrastructure development will be undertaken by the private sector, which will install its own equipment for cargo handling. The private player will also pay a share of the revenue to the port authority.
According to the Expressions of Interest, the port authority will provide the basic infrastructure and 125 hectares of reclaimed land for the development of the container yard and other facilities. The selected concessionaire will be responsible for designing, financing, constructing, operating, and maintaining the container handling facilities in Phase I under a long-term concession agreement of 30-50 years.
The ambitious development plan for the Great Nicobar Islands, outlined by NITI Aayog, includes an airport, a port, a rapid transport system, and a trade complex. This plan may require an investment of over INR 40,000 crore. Additionally, projects valued at INR 900 crore are currently being implemented in the Syama Prasad Mookherjee Port, while others worth another INR 3,300 crore are in the final stages of the tendering process.
Once completed, the Nicobar Port is expected to surpass the International Container Transshipment Terminal at Kochi in Kerala and will be developed on a much larger scale. The natural depth of Galathea Bay, which is 20 meters, offers two significant advantages: its proximity to the busy east-west international shipping route and the ability to accommodate the latest generation of mega-ships due to its deep natural water depths.