Vizhinjam port: arbitration proceedings begin

AVPPL misses Phase I deadline

Updated - April 23, 2021 12:31 am IST

Published - April 23, 2021 12:30 am IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

The arbitration proceedings between the State government and Adani Vizhinjam Port Pvt. Ltd. (AVPPL), tasked with constructing the Vizhinjam International Multipurpose Seaport, on a 16-point ‘notice of disputes’ raised by the AVPPL has commenced.

The AVPPL will file their claims by April 26 before a tribunal comprising presiding officer R.V. Ravindran and arbitrators K.S.P. Radhakrishnan and Kurian Joseph, all former Supreme Court judges. A preliminary online hearing was held after Mr. Radhakrishnan, arbitrator appointed by the AVPPL, and Mr. Joseph, arbitrator for the State government, opted for Mr. Ravindran as the presiding officer.

State’s counterclaims

The State will get two months to file counterclaims after the AVPPL files its claims and the arbitration is expected to be completed by December 2021. Official sources said most of the 16 claims are ‘force majeure’ and had been rejected by the Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited (VISL), the executing agency of the seaport project.

The AVPPL had missed the project’s Phase I deadline of December 3, 2019. It had sought 16 months’ extension citing ‘damage’ inflicted by Cyclone Ockhi. The claim was rejected as just a dredger was damaged.

Extension

However, the VISL granted extension following the lockdown imposed last year due to COVID-19. The project is still dragging on. As per the agreement, after the Phase 1 deadline, there is a nine-month cure period (grace period), in which after the first three months, i.e. after March 2020, the AVPPL has to pay damages for not meeting the deadline.

In July 2020, the AVPPL raised the disputes, bypassing the conciliation norms cited in the agreement. The AVPPL also approached the International Centre for Alternate Dispute Resolution (ICADR) to seek an arbitrator’s appointment on behalf of the government under ICADR Arbitration Rules, 1996.

As per the legal opinion received by the government, the AVPPL move was ‘premature and irregular.’

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