The dozen ports owned by the government are scampering to sign a “non-binding” memorandum of understanding in the run-up to the second edition of the Maritime India Summit to be held virtually between March 2-4, as the ministry of ports, shipping and waterways set stiff targets to showcase the “success” of the event.
Beginning February 23, over 400 MoU’s are expected to be signed between the major ports, coastal states and investors, which will “focus on attracting investment, skilling and generating employment, resulting in more business to the ports and economic stability to the sector and its stakeholders”, a ministry official said. Of these, the 12 major ports alone will sign over 75 MoU’s.
During the first edition of the summit held in April 2016, 141 MoUs and business agreements involving an investment of ₹82,905 crore were signed by various entities including major ports, State Maritime Board’s and public sector undertakings. Barring a very few, most of the MoU’s haven’t translated into actual investments till date.
But, that hasn’t deterred the ministry from pursuing a higher number of such “non-binding” MoU’s during the second edition.
Paradip Port, India’s biggest state-owned port located in Odisha, will sign MoU’s worth about ₹9,000 crore.
Deendayal Port, located in Gujarat, will ink 15 MoU’s worth ₹3,823.70 crore with Indian Oil Corporation, EMAMI Group, AEGIS Power Supply, Timber Association to develop furniture park, Coast Guard Jetty and for the greenery of the port area and construction.
Cochin Port will sign MoU’s worth ₹2,500 crore mostly for projects in hospitality, tourism, cruise etc.
Chennai Port will be signing about ten MoU’s while other major ports are yet to finalise the number and value of MoU’s.
Such is the pressure that an official with one of the major ports remarked in a lighter vein whether The Hindu Group would be interested in signing an MoU with it.
Even the ministry is not sure about the MoU’s fructifying into concrete investments. This is evident from the MoU template circulated to the major ports for signing.
“This MoU is not intended to provide any basis for any investment decision to be made by any interested parties and each prospective interested party must make their independent assessment of the project,” it said.
“None of the provisions of this MoU shall be deemed to constitute a partnership between parties hereto, and no party shall have any authority to bind or shall be deemed to be an agent of the other in any manner whatsoever,” it stated.
“This Agreement is non-binding and solely for the purpose of establishing a basis upon which the parties will continue discussions. Either of the parties may at its sole discretion terminate the discussions for any reason by giving written notice of termination to the other with no cost or liability to either party,” it added.
Port industry sources said that there was no point in signing such “non-binding” MoU’s “just for showing”.
“One should not go for such things. This is like state governments holding investment summits at the end of which they will declare that MoU’s worth thousands of crores were signed. But check whether any industry has come or not. The same thing is going to happen here also. At the end of the Summit, an announcement will be made on the signing of MoU’s worth lakhs of crores but how much will be the ground reality, nobody knows,” he said.