Govt keen to speed up work on Iran's Chabahar Port

After India and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop the Chabahar Port in Iran, that would give India sea-land access route to Afghanistan by-passing Pakistan, the Union Shipping Ministry has decided to speed up the work on the project. Sources indicated that contracts would be finalised within six months and thereafter tenders would be floated for berth construction at Chabahar.

India has been eyeing Chabahar Port for nearly a decade now, with an eye on easier access to Central Asia.

A special purpose vehicle named Indian Ports Global has been floated, informed a senior official at the ministry. "The SPV has been floated and work on finalising the contracts for constructing two berths at Chabahar is on. This would be finalised within the next six months, and thereafter we would float tenders and award these," the official added.

Chabahar, located on the confluence of the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman in southeastern Iran, provides India access to Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond. As per the MoU signed between the two governments in May, India would invest around $86 million to construct a container terminal and a multi-purpose cargo terminal.

The port's strategic importance for India is that it reduces our dependence on Pakistan for trade with Afghanistan.

The official added that the investment in Chabahar would be routed through the SPV, which is a joint venture company between Kandla Port Trust (KPT) and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) with equal equity stakes. "A private partner may also be roped in to develop the port; it could be either an Indian or an Iranian company," the official said on grounds of anonymity. Sources at KPT said that the ministry has already spoken with some private firms in this regard.