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    SCI backs out of Vizhinjam

    THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) has backed out of the Vizhinjam International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) project, dealing a blow to the State Government’s plans to land a private partner for the multi-crore project.SCI has verbally informed the Kerala government of its decision, but nothing has been conveyed in writing thus far. ‘’The reason given is that Hindustan Construction Corporation (HCC), one of the consortium partners, has withdrawn,’’ Suresh Babu, CEO, Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd (VISL), said when contacted.With the HCC withdrawing, the SCI-led consortium has ceased to exist, he said. And since August 15 is the last date for submitting the financial proposals, it is impossible for SCI or SKIL Infrastructure, the third partner, to form a new consortium. The SCI-led consortium was one of 12 firms/consortiums that were short-listed by a Chief Secretary-led high power committee some months ago. SCI had emerged as a probable after the Kerala government floated global tenders for the ICTT project a third time during the tenure of the LDF Government.The project has been through some rough weather in recent months. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had exhibited grave doubts about its feasibility, before hastily granting clearance to the terms of reference for conducting an environment impact study.All short-listed firms were to have submitted their financial proposals by April, but the State Government was forced to extend the deadline on multiple occasions after a few firms, including SCI, requested it. August 15 was fixed as the deadline - the latest one - on the request of the firms. At the time, Ports Minister K Babu reasoned that since the State Government was pinning high hopes on the SCI, another extension should not pose a problem.Even in July, there were indications that the SCI might pull out of the race. "The project will not be affected. With the SCI informing us that it indeed is withdrawing, the state government can go ahead with other options,’’ a top Ports official said.Among the remaining 11 companies are GMR, GVK, Patel Engineering, Nagarjuna and Global Ports, a Turkish firm.