Kerala cabinet to decide on Vizhinjam port contract

Thiruvananthapuram, April 28 (Inditop) The Kerala cabinet will Wednesday decide whom to award the contract to execute the proposed Rs.53.48-billion port at Vizhinjam – the bidding process for which had been challenged in court.

The central government had cleared the proposal earlier this year, following which the state government awarded the contract to Lanco Infrastructure. This, however, was challenged by Mumbai-based developer Zoom, which took the state government to court after its bid was rejected.

The court subsequently asked the government to consider Zoom’s proposal also.

Following this, the state government moved the Supreme Court, which earlier this month similarly directed it to give the company a hearing before proceeding any further.

A high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan last Saturday decided to place the issue before the next cabinet meeting.

Senior opposition legislator P.C. George of the Kerala Congress (Secular) party Tuesday told reporters that he has asked the chief minister to go for a re-tender and order a probe into the awarding of the contract to Lanco Infrastructure of ports minister M. Vijayakumar.

“Vijayakumar is the culprit. Zoom in its quotation said it would give Rs.447 crore to the government after 10 years if given the contract, but the government selected Lanco, which had offered just Rs.115 crore,” said George.

The ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), at its two-day state secretariat meeting which began Monday, also discussed the issue.

The Vizhinjam port project is being developed under the build-operate-transfer (BOT) scheme and will be handed over to the state government after 30 years. It will be built over 150 acres with no displacement of local fishermen, officials said.

With the natural depth at 24 metres, one of the deepest in the world, the port needs no dredging. It will be located close to a busy international shipping route, and handle 4.1 million containers annually.