Port workers unions have urged the government to withdraw the advisories issued to the 12 state-owned major ports directing them to grant exemption/remission in charges due to force majeure triggered by the pandemic stating that it would plunge them into “deeper financial crisis”.
On September 2, the Shipping Ministry directed the dozen major ports to implement its April 21 advisory in “letter and spirit” and ensure that no penal charges are levied from port users during the lockdown period, plus 30 days recovery time.
“From the above directives, it seems that the Shipping Ministry is so serious on implementing its April 21 advisory for giving exemption/concession to port users and enforcing the “force majeure” clause in “letter and spirit” that it is not interested in the financial position of the major ports which are struggling to fulfil their “liabilities on pension fund” and implementation of wage settlement etc in its “letter and spirit”,” T Narendra Rao, general secretary, Water Transport Workers Federation of India wrote in a letter to Shipping Minister Mansukh Mandaviya.
“We are having serious apprehensions that some vested interests are working in the Ministry on offering the exemption/remission of charges and force majeure to the port users,” he wrote.
The major ports are providing all basic facilities, amenities and equipment for rendering seamless service even during the pandemic as ports and water transport industry are considered as “public utility service”.
The concessions being offered to port users and multi-national private container terminals operating under the public-private-partnership (PPP) model at major ports are “not justified” as this would push the major ports into “deeper financial crisis”, Rao said.
Frequent pressure from the Ministry to the major ports cannot be justified, he said pointing out that ports such as Cochin, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, Mormugao, Visakhapatnam and Tuticorin are either running with meagre amount of profit or are loss making.
“While this being the case, implementation of any concession to the port users and PPP terminal operators would further dilute the revenue stream on the pretext of COVID-19 and further endanger the financial viability of major ports,” he said.
“Further, repeated directives would be troublesome for the major ports besides nullifying the autonomy provided under the MPT Act 1963 to port trust boards in taking judicious decisions in collective wisdom. By directing the major port trusts using the authority of the Central Government is unfair and unjust resulting in overburdening the ports to give relief to MNC’s,” he added while demanding that the proposed concessions to port users should be dropped.
Source: The Hindu Business Line