India’s premier container port, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Navi Mumbai has signed 400 Million US Dollar agreement with State Bank of India (SBI) and Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) for External Commercial Borrowing (ECB).
The agreement was signed by JNPT officials in the presence of the Union Minister for Shipping, Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari in Mumbai, Maharashtra.
- With this ECB Agreement, JNPT becomes the first major port in the country to take loans in dollars to improve the infrastructure.
- The ECB of 400 Million dollars will be primarily utilised for expansion of JNPT’s existing road network connecting to its port project. It will help JNPT to double its existing capacity.
- JNPT was able to take loans in dollars as it has US dollar denominated foreign currency earnings which can be leveraged for a low cost foreign currency borrowing.
Why Ports are opting for low cost foreign currency borrowing?
- Port projects, including connectivity infrastructure projects are critical to developing cargo handling capacity of the country.
- With Central Government’s thrust on port led development under the Sagarmala programme, improving viability of port projects is critical.
- One of the primary factors that impacts viability of port projects 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.
- Thus, ECBs is an innovative means of raising low-cost particularly when the port had revenues in foreign exchange, which provided a natural hedge to the ports.
- This would substantially help to eliminate the requirement of hedging the forex risk and would reduce the cost of borrowing.
- The step is also considered as another milestone in infusing dynamism into the functioning of the ports, both in their operations and financing.