The invitation for EoI comes with the rider that the call does not put any obligation on the port to go ahead with the project.

The Cochin Port Trust has invited expression of interest (EoI) for setting up an export-oriented oil refinery or an oil trading hub in the proposed outer harbour area, which the port authority plans also to develop as the future hub of port-related activities.

The invitation for EoI, which closes on December 31, comes with a rider that the call did not bring it under any obligation to go ahead with the project. However, its preamble says that a draft report has declared the outer harbour project technically and financially feasible.

The port authority’s plan is to build two breakwaters, on the north and south sides of the approach channel to the Cochin Port, and reclaim about 2,600 acres inside the north breakwater, the eastern boundary of the proposed reclamation area running along the Puthuvype Special Economic Zone. Another 650 acres will be reclaimed inside the south breakwater, off the coast of Fort Kochi.

The port’s plan for either a refinery or an oil trading hub in the outer harbour area is subject to environmental clearance.

A senior port official said on Monday that the cost of the proposed outer harbour work was expected to be low because material from the port’s current dredging operations would be used for the reclamation. He did not make a guess of the cost of the project though some reports indicated approximately Rs.8,000 crore, which also included the cost of the breakwaters.

These projects were still in the conceptual stage and was not yet time to project the capacity of the proposed refinery, he said.

The conceptual studies for the outer harbour project were carried out by Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, and Central Water and Power Research Station, Pune. The port authority has enlisted i-maritime Consultancy, Navi Mumbai, as its consultant for the project.

The other businesses suggested for the outer harbour area include offshore rig fabrication facility, free trade warehousing zone and an ultra mega power plant.

Factors highlighted in favour of a refinery include: it is cheaper to build a refinery in India than in most parts of the world; the location of the proposed outer harbour, close to the Special Economic Zone on Puthuvype Island. The Puthuvype SEZ houses facilities, including the International Container Transshipment Terminal and natural gas terminal operated by Petronet LNG Limited.

The port authority here is also banking on the depth of the proposed outer harbour, which will be capable of hosting carriers of up to 1,30,000-tonne capacity. The invitation for EoI said the government of India planned to boost investments in oil refining and that the sector was open to 100 per cent FDI.

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