Trade unions at Cochin Port Trust have come out against the Union government policy of leasing out port property on a long-term basis to private companies under development models like BOT (Build, Operate, Transfer) and PPP (Public-Private Partnership).

“… giving waterfront, valuable port land on nominal rent basis for long period is to be discouraged. The social negative impact out of these practices is multifarious,” said trade union leaders in their memorandum to the Parliamentary Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture chaired by Sitaram Yechury.

The memorandum, submitted on Saturday by Cochin Port Staff Association chairman P.M. Mohammed Haneef, and Cochin Employees’ Organisation general convenor C.D. Nandakumar, pointed out how it had become a practice with major ports in India to lease out land for nominal returns.

“The experience clearly revealed that these are highly detrimental to the national economy, interest of the ports and interest of the workers,” the memorandum said.

The trade unions are particularly irked by the way agreements put the onus of building infrastructure on such property on the port authorities concerned while parties that lease the land reap the returns from such projects.

They gave the example of the International Container Transshipment Terminal project here, the agreement for which has left the onus of dredging and maintaining a14.5-metre draft on the Port Trust.

Though the project targeted handling 7.5 lakh Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) of cargo in 2013, the actual output has only been 3.33 lakh TEUs. This has resulted in the port getting a royalty of only Rs.53.39 crore against the dredging cost of Rs.122.58 crore during 2012-13.

The current level of expenditure on maintenance, dredging for ICTT contrasts with what would have been the normal expenditure of between Rs.30 crore and Rs. 35 crore a year. The port has been forced to find money for maintaining the channel depth because the agreement with the ICTT operator stipulates that the port should maintain 14.5-metre depth and provide road and rail connectivity to the project site.

The memorandum also requested the parliamentary committee’s support for getting financial aid for the Cochin Port Trust until such time as the ICTT turned around to yield enough income because the transshipment terminal was a project of national importance.

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