Mangaluru, Nov 25,2016: The stevedores of New Mangalore Port are a puzzled lot unable to understand the rationale behind the port trust’s decision to handover the lone deep-draught general berth doing brisk business to a single private player.
“Initially, the port trust labelled it an exclusive container berth; later called it container and clean cargo and finally container and general cargo berth, before putting it up for tender,” said Stevedores Association president Shekhar Pujari.
Of the total 35.582 million tonnes of cargo handled by the port in 2015-16, 72 per cent constituted oil cargo in which neither stevedores nor port workers had any role to play. Public-private participation for Berth 12, which is also deep-draught, has been finalised in favour of Chettinad Mangalore Coal Terminal Pvt. Ltd., thereby taking away another 8 per cent of dry bulk cargo.
Berth No 15, which is a captive berth consigned to Udupi Power Corporation, handles another 9 per cent of the cargo. If Berth No 8 (Old No 14) is also allotted to a private operator, it would take away another 8 per cent of the cargo, including 3 per cent container. Thus, local stevedores and workers would be left with just 2 per cent of the cargo of their own local port, Mr. Pujari regretted.
If at all NMPT intended to develop an exclusive berth under public-private participation, it should have been a new berth and not the one that has been developed with the initiative of the local business community. The trust could also have allotted other berths, which have lesser draught, under public-private participation since no main line container vessels visit NMPT, and only feeder vessels call on the port.
Mr. Pujari said that the NMPT is nowhere in the international container trade routes and container traffic has increased only 16 per cent in the last six years. Container traffic from the hinterland does not come to NMPT due to the ghat stretch, he said. The total container traffic handled in 2016 was 21,953 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) export and 30,983 TEU import and the projected 3.20 lakh TEU by 2028 is highly unrealistic.
The proposal, Mr. Pujari said, would make all the 36 stevedores of NMPT and hundreds of people under them unemployed. Each stevedore has about 30 employees and 30-50 tippers along with drivers and cleaners. There are about 500 licensed port workers and an equal number of contract workers. All of them would get affected, he said.
The association is not against developing the infrastructure. However, a container terminal could be built in the Greenfield sector without affecting existing berths, he said.
Courtesy: The Hindu