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India's ports 'open to all', says Secretary

Dubai: The world's leading container terminal operator, Hutchison Port Holdings, is welcome to bid for port tenders in India, stressed A K Mohapatra, secretary of India's Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport & Highways. Earlier this year Hong Kong-based HPH was barred from bidding for a facility outside Mumbai, on national security concerns. However, HPH will be allowed to bid elsewhere in the country, something it will be delighted to hear given that Indian containerization is expected to grow by 16-20% a year in the medium term.

Outlining his country's open door policy to private and foreign investment in the ports sector, Mohapatra said the government allowed 100% foreign direct investment throughout the shipping spectrum, a policy in existence since 1996 though recently fine tuned as part of the National Maritime Development Programme.
'The Hutchison event gave major misgivings among people outside the country,' Mohapatra said. 'India has a clear policy to welcome investors from anywhere in the world.'

All companies, including domestic ones, are subjected to security scrutiny prior to investment. Hutchison, which is already a major player in the country's telecom industry, was barred from Mumbai. However, said Mohapatra, 'There is nothing to prevent Hutchison from bidding for other projects and they might come out successful.'

Under the nation's port blueprint, India's port capacity, currently at 700m tons, will rise to 1.5bn tons by 2011/12 and 2bn tons by 2016. $12bn in both public and private funds have been earmarked for this goal.

Speaking at Seatrade Middle East Maritime 2006, Mohapatra had some special words for Dubai's top port operator, DP World which has an extensive footprint on the subcontinent thanks to its takeover of P&O Ports. 'Our experience with DP World and earlier P&O has been excellent and we look forward to more excellent relationships with them. Although people outside India, including the United States, have a different approach, our relationship with DP World will be governed by purely commercial and friendly relations.'  [05/12/06]

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