India’s premier container port, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Navi Mumbai, has signed an agreement with State Bank of India and Development Bank of Singapore for External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) to the tune of USD 400 Million at a “very competitive” interest rate to improve the infrastructure required for “doubling” its existing capacity to 9.85 Million TEUs annually. JNPT has US Dollar denominated foreign currency earnings which can be leveraged for a low cost foreign currency borrowing. The ECB of USD 400 Million (USD300 Million from the SBI & USD100 Million from DBS) will be primarily utilised by JNPT for expanding the network of roads that connect to its port projects. The existing road network for evacuation of traffic is currently operated at a capacity utilisation of 100%, and the expansion is needed for quicker and more efficient evacuation of traffic.
The agreement with the SBI and Development Bank of Singapore was signed by the JNPT Chairman Anil Diggikar in the presence of Minister for Shipping, Road Transport & Highways Shri. Nitin Gadkari after the Reserve Bank of India granted approval to JNPT for raising USD 400 Million with an end use of on-lending to Mumbai JNPT Port Road Company Limited (MJPRCL) for implementation of road project. The Ministry of Shipping has already granted its approval as required under the Major Port Trusts Act,1963.
Speaking on the occasion, Shri Gadkari said that JNPT is the first major port in the country to have taken loans in dollars. This was possible because ports have a natural hedge in foreign currency earnings. He also said that the rate of the ECB loan of 2.025% plus Libor USD 6M (approx 3.15%) is cheaper than Indian currency loan. He said the funding by JNPT is the first of its kind for major port and it opens up one more avenue for major and government ports to raise funds by accessing international markets for their requirements.
Borrowing by JNPT is for Door-to- Door tenor of 7.5 years. However, lending by JNPT to MJPRCL is for 16 years (two years construction and 14 years repayment). The funding process involved assessment and structuring of cash-flows (both at JNPT level and MJPRCL level), bid process management, engagement of domestic and foreign lenders. The project will be developed by Mumbai JNPT Port Road Company Limited (MJPRCL), a joint venture company of NHAI, JNPT and CIDCO at a total estimated cost of Rs. 2895 crore. Considering the importance and urgency of implementation of the project, it will be taken up by MJPRCL on EPC mode and funding for the project would be carried out by JNPT.
The project will primarily benefit and cater to the needs of JNPT. JNPT is going to double its capacity in the next seven years. This project will cater to the additional cargo which will be handled at the 4th Container Terminal. An improved connectivity is essential for traffic evacuation from JNPT. This evacuation corridor would help in supporting the EXIM trade besides providing economic opportunity to the local people and people from the region. The project is of great significance to JNPT and will give a boost to the country’s economy.
Port projects, including connectivity projects, are critical to developing cargo handling capacity. With the thrust on port led development under the Sagarmala programme, improving viability of projects is critical. One of the primary factors that impacts viability is the interest rate on borrowings to fund projects. While Ports have surplus funds, they also need to borrow to achieve a quantum jump in the investment. Minister of Shipping and Road Transport & Highways Shri Nitin Gadkari had suggested an innovative means of raising low-cost external commercial borrowings, particularly when the port had revenues in foreign exchange, which provided a natural hedge to the ports. This would substantially eliminate the requirement of hedging the forex risk and would reduce the cost of borrowing. This suggestion was followed up by Ports and JNPT became the first Major Port to finalise the terms of external commercial borrowing. With this beginning, other Major ports would also adopt similar means to improve their capability to invest. The step is another milestone in infusing dynamism into the functioning of the ports, both in their operations and financing.