NMPT Plans to sell its Jewel in the Crown – KCCI President Jeevan Saldanha
Mangaluru: The New Mangalore Port Trust has put up a proposal for Upfront tariff setting for the development of container terminal at berth No. 8 on PPP model at the New Mangalore Port’ which should be dropped. It has been a consistent practice of the NMPT and the tariff authority for Major Ports (TAMP) to circulate tariff proposals to all stakeholders well in advance and thereafter call for the stakeholder’s comments. The stakeholder meetings have, almost, as a rule, been held after having provided sufficient time and the opportunity to the stakeholders. However, the said proposal was not forwarded to KCCI neither by NMPT nor TAMP”, said the president of KCCI Jeevan Saldanha during a media interaction at the KCCI office here on November 16.
Addressing the mediapersons Jeevan Saldanha said, “Berth No 8 which has the average berth occupancy of about 73.7% is the most occupied berth amongst all dry bulk cargo berths. This berth was originally built to cater to the demand of the Exim trade to handle all types of dry bulk cargoes. This berth has always been the unique selling proposition of this port during all trade meetings organised by NMPT. With this scenario, if berth No 8 is handed over to a PPP operator for handling containers in addition to other clean dry bulk cargoes, the stevedores and odd agents will be severely affected. In addition to this, thousands of people belonging to the families of workers, employees, truck and equipment operators are going to be denied their livelihood by this unfeasible container terminal”.
“In View of the above, KCCI has requested MP Nalin Kumar Kateel to meet the Shipping Minister and to direct the NMPT management to cancel this project as the same is uneconomical and against the interest of trade and industry of this region”.
He further said, “The said proposal was not forwarded to KCCI neither by NMPT nor TAMP. In the absence of the project details, KCCI is unable to offer its views. The berth identified for this project is a deep draft berth having a draft of 14 mtrs. This multipurpose berth was originally constructed for handling all types of dry bulk cargoes. This berth with an installed capacity of 6 mtpa was commissioned in the year 2006. Within no time, larger vessels started calling at this berth thus optimising the berth utilisation. All along, this berth has seen occupancy of more than 90%. It is noteworthy to mention that very few ports in India have deep draft berths drawing 14 mtrs draft. Hence dedicating this berth to a PPP operator for handling container Vessels is not good economics in the national interest and a sheer waste of national resource”.
Jeevan also said, “This berth has a total length of 400 mtrs, which enables the port authority to accommodate 2 vessels simultaneously. The demarcation issue is not transparent and a grey area. This berth has been the main ‘Unique Selling Proposition’ of this port that differentiates this port from its competitors. No doubt, it has helped the port authority to attract more cargoes. A comparison be drawn with respect to earning per berth with rest of other general cargo berths. Perhaps Berth Nos 6 and 7 can be explored as one container vessel berth. All feeder vessels calling at this port have draft less than 10.0 mtrs which can be easily accommodated at other berths. In the history of NMPT, very few mother line vessels have called at this port and the draft has always been less than 10.5 mtrs”.
Further, we also note contradictory clauses laid down in various projects which could jeopardise the trade and the port itself can land in litigation. Currently, berth No 12 is under construction and once ready the same will be mechanised and all coal cargoes will be handled at this berth. Meantime, the port has awarded the tender to operate Mobile Harbour Crane services to existing vendor for handling all dry bulk cargoes at berth No.3. At the same time, berth No. 6 is being allotted to PPP operator for handling containers and other dry bulk cargoes. Same berth/commodity is being awarded to multiple agencies under different projects, which is debatable and arbitrary. A Port with deep draft berth will be of great advantage for freight sensitive cargoes like iron ore and coal. As such cargoes can move on larger vessels. thus lowering the sea freight component on the landed cost. Hence, we strongly contend that dedicating this berth to handle containers will have a disastrous impact on the stevedores and C&F agents of this port. A lot of downstream unemployment would trigger too.
At a time when the Ministry is considering to introduce policy guidelines to curb monopolies in the port sector. NMPT is encouraging the practice to help one vendor. KCCI strongly objects to the proposal of handing overall cargo operations to one vendor by blocking one premium berth and depriving the right to livelihood of those who are dependent on port related activities at NMPT since decades. Where is equity and the principle of natural Justice? With the focus of a development agenda, NMPT forgets the theme ‘Sab ka Saath Sab Ka Vikas’. KCCI stands in solidarity with its aggrieved members and reserves its rights to protest and object at an appropriate forum as per the Constitution of this nation.
Recently the Chairman of NMPT had given a press statement on November 4, in a news daily and declared that the No 8 berth occupancy is only 45%. Above figures, quoted are as per administration report of NMPT. Nowhere does the figure of 45% appears in this report as claimed by the Chairman. The construction of Berth No 8 (14) was financed through Grant in aid the budget route through Parliament. The asset belongs to the Citizens of India built from the Tax Payers money. Whether the Board of Trustees can take a decision to go for a PPP model when it is a grant in aid project about Rs 400 crores, only CAG and time will tell.
New Mangalore Port as the ‘Gateway of Karnataka‘ is the Golden Crown of our state waterfront Berth No 8 (14) the best multi-purpose berth in NMPT was ‘Jewel in the Crown’ for the people of this region, trade commerce and industry. Why give away ‘Family Silver in the first place and put people of the region to hardship to benefit just one entity.
Vice president of KCCI Vathika Pai, former president of KCCI Mohammed Ameen, Praveen Kumar, Abdul Hameed, M Ganesh Bhat and others were also present.