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DP World boosts Indian investment

Dubai Ports World (DPW) is proceeding with a series of investments in India, as it boosts operations following the successful acquisition of British ports and ferries operator P&O last month.

Dubai Ports World (DPW) is proceeding with a series of investments in India, as it boosts operations following the successful acquisition of British ports and ferries operator P&O last month. The UAE’s state-owned operator is moving ahead with plans for two major developments - one in the district of Kerala, and other in the district of West Bengal.

DPW will soon float a tender for the design of its planned US$450 million container terminal in Kochi, in the southern state of Kerala. Shortly after, a tender for the project’s main construction will be offered to contractors.

“We’ve completed borehole surveys,” said DPW chief executive officer Mohammad Sharaf. “In a couple of months we’ll issue a tender for design.”

In February 2005, the operator also signed an agreement with the Cochin Port Trust to build, develop and operate a container terminal at Vallarpadam in Kerala.

Meanwhile, DPW is part of a consortium that will develop a private port, and an adjoining special economic zone, in the state of West Bengal. The special purpose vehicle, established two years ago, will develop the state’s first private port on the River Hooghly.

P&O Ports Australia, which is now part of DPW, along with equity partners Keventer Agro and Mukand Steel, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the West Bengal state government. Under the terms of the Memorandum, the state government assigned a 50-year concession to develop, operate and maintain the port, which will be corporatised under Bengal Port Limited. DPW, following its acquisition of P&O, will be the majority stakeholder and thus wield management control.

The proposed port at Kulpi is already the subject of feasibility studies that should be completed by August this year. These studies precede investment budgeting, financial tie-ups, and an equity distribution between the partners. The construction is scheduled to start in 2006, and follows further investment commitments to projects at London Gate, Guangdong Province in China, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, and Yarimca in Turkey.

The development plans come as nearly 800 employees at Mina Zayed, including 270 UAE nationals, have been made redundant following the takeover of P&O.

DPW took over the management of Mina Zayed on April 1, its second major acquisition in the UAE following the takeover of Fujairah port in 2005.

“On April 12 approximately 800 employees received their termination letters,” a Mina Zayed official confirmed. “Many senior people have been replaced including the under-secretary and assistant under-secretary, and some have resigned from their posts.”

Ahmad Al Calily, managing director of Abu Dhabi Ports Company, a new entity created to oversee development of the emirate’s port infrastructure, confirmed that the 270 nationals, and around 300 expatriate workers, have been laid off under a restructuring schedule. However, he insisted that all UAE nationals, and some expatriates, would be absorbed in other government jobs.

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