Belgium's Port of Antwerp, the second largest port in Europe, aims to pick a stake in Essar Group's Hazira Port in Gujarat by the end of the year. "Antwerp Port intends to participate in Hazira port project of Essar Group," Antwerp Port Authority managing director Eddy Bruyninckx told ET without disclosing numbers. "The talks are on between the newly-formed subsidiary, Port of Antwerp International (PAI), and Essar Group."
It is believed that PAI is working with reserves of 25 million and it has already acquired stakes in port projects in Oman and Congo. The move is in keeping with the Belgian company's expansion plans firmed up last year, when it evaluated 20 projects and zeroed in on a few of them to expand its presence out of Europe through equity participation. Subsequently, it signed an MoU with Essar Group in February for strategic collaboration in consultancy, investment, training and enhancing commercial relations in the port sector.
"We are exploring opportunities overseas to expand our footprint by sharing our expertise in port development and management through a newly-formed subsidiary. We have a strong belief in cooperation with India which has a huge potential and ambition to develop ports," Bruyninckx said.
Antwerp Port Authority is also keen to strengthen its ties with the Indian steel companies. "We want Indian companies to bring their steel service centres to Antwerp," said Bruyninckx. Essar Steel, which operates a capacity of 8.6 million tonne per annum and is set to expand it to 14 million tonne by the end of this financial year, routes its cargo to European markets through Port of Antwerp.
During the first six months of 2011, Antwerp port handled 96 million tonne of freight, an increase of 10.4% compared with the first half of 2010. Essar's port arm manages capacity of 88 mmtpa, which is being expanded to 158 mmtpa over the next few years at an investment of Rs 9,300 crore. It has two operational ports - at Hazira and Vadinar.
At Hazira, on Gujarat's west coast, Essar Ports operates an all-weather deep draft port with 30 mmtpa of dry bulk cargo capacity, which is being expanded to 50 mmtpa. "The company is setting up a dry bulk terminal at Hazira with a capacity of 20 mmtpa, which will be operational by the second half of 2013-14. Environment and CRZ clearances have been received. Forest clearance is pending for part of the project.