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Business

Japan's IHI to help build Mumbai sea bridge

Tokyo's infrastructure exports swing from energy to transportation

Japanese engineering group IHI completed the bridge across Turkey's Izmit Bay last year.

TOKYO -- Japanese civil engineering group IHI has won a contract to build part of what will be India's longest sea bridge, linking central Mumbai to new urban developments and helping ease traffic woes in the area.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority has chosen a consortium of subsidiary IHI Infrastructure Systems and local contractor Larsen & Toubro to build the first 10km section of the 22km Mumbai Trans Harbor Link.

The bridge's total price tag is seen reaching $2.65 billion while the partners' portion is estimated at around $970 million, with IHI raking in $176 million.

Construction begins in January, with completion set for July 2022. A Japanese official development assistance yen loan will contribute toward funding the project.

The greater Mumbai area is bisected by an inlet known as Thane Creek. Travelers from the central city currently must circumnavigate the waters via roads or rail lines to reach destinations in the east. The bridge should slash travel time by at least 75% as well as ease congestion.

IHI will make rust-resistant bridge girders treated with fluorine at plants located in Vietnam and elsewhere, transporting the material by sea.

The IHI-Larsen & Toubro team won contracts in 2015 to build multiple bridges in India for freight trains. Last year IHI completed the bridge over Izmit Bay in Turkey, one of the world's longest oversea bridges.

With little foreseeable demand for new bridges in Japan, IHI's portfolio of major bridge construction is focused offshore. The company positions India, Indonesia and other emerging Asian nations as key markets, along with the U.S., a country ripe for bridge replacement projects.

Yet competition has intensified. IHI has lost contracts to Chinese and South Korean rivals offering bids that eased the cost burden for the local government, most notably for the roughly 2km suspension bridge spanning the Dardanelles in Turkey.

The Mumbai bridge project also represents a boon for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has pushed for infrastructure exports throughout his administration. Japan and India also have agreed to build a high-speed rail corridor connecting Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

The win also comes as Abe's infrastructure approach faces turbulence. His administration has received international opprobrium for touting coal-fired power plants, which add to the carbon footprint. As for Japanese-made nuclear reactors, Vietnam unexpectedly canceled plans for a power plant. Feasibility studies in Turkey have encountered problems.

(Nikkei)

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