The Chennai Port Trust (ChPT) has agreed to temporarily suspend the mandatory use of the newly installed mobile harbour cranes (MHC), until the management reviews the legal aspects and the representations are made. While no time frame has been given, the suspension could last a month, said those who attended a meeting with ChPT Chairman Atulya Mishra.
The meeting was attended by trade representatives, including Chennai Stevedores Association.
Conflict over MHC
The association had objected to the port trust insisting that bulk ships calling at the port should compulsorily use MHC, even if equipped with adequate cranes on board. Such a clause adds to the cost of cargo handling, it said. The option of using the MHC should be left to stevedores or cargo/ship owners, said the association.
With the increased cost adding to higher gang charges, as well as a 110 per cent increase in land rentals, cargo handling at the Chennai Port has reached ‘unsustainable’ levels, leaving the association with no choice but to divert cargoes to nearby cheaper ports, it said.
Roadwings International was awarded a contract to supply, operate and maintain two MHCs of over 100 tonne capacity, each for handling cargo. The MHCs must be indented and engaged by port users on first priority for loading/unloading of break bulk, dry bulk and iron/steel and bagged cargoes.
The operator will directly collect hire charges from port users as per the tariff approved by the Tariff Authority for Major Ports, applicable till March 31, 2016, the ChPT said in a trade notice. However, the association said that when the original tender was floated, no guarantees were made to potential bidders that the use of the MHC would be mandatory. Some of the bidders did not participate in the subsequent tender for this reason.
“Somewhere along the way, tender conditions seemed to have been altered and this commitment has been made to Roadwings by ChPT,” the association said. The association urged the Shipping Ministry to intervene and ensure that trade interest was protected and that cargoes do not migrate from Chennai to private ports, leading to loss for the port and impact on a large number of labourers.
“When contracts are signed with stevedores for all inclusive rates, any additional charge should be borne by the stevedores. We work on wafer thin margins on a calculated risk and any deviation puts us into a loss,” the association said.
This post was written by Atlantic Admin