Stand off over licence fee for crane providers is the reason

Three ships have been diverted from Mangalore to other ports because the three cranes at the port to download cargo are not being operated, according to M. Shekhar Pujari, president, Association of New Mangalore Port Stevedores. NMPT has, however, denied this.

The crane providers have stopped operating because of the stand-off with the port authorities over revision of licence fee.

Sources in NMPT said that the crane providers wanted to renegotiate the fee because of insufficient cargo. The port did not agree to revision of the fee, which led to the providers withdrawing operation. “We can't change the quoted rates,” port sources said. Attempts were on to discuss the issue with the port's board and resume crane services, they said.

For the past few days, work had been affected in the port owing to inaction of harbour mobile cranes (HMCs), the association said. “The port should have found (an alternative) six months ago,” he said.

The cranes are used by gearless ships (that do not have a crane onboard) brought by the exim trade and by other ships whose cranes are out of order.

He said that the port and the HMC contractors did not give sufficient notice period of at least 45 days to export-import traders and port users to plan an alternative to handle their shipments. “This is a shock and a huge loss to exim trade and port users in NMPT,” he said. Port users, charterers (who chartered the vessel for exim trade) and ship owners who undertook contracts for handling cargo were facing unexpected losses and demurrages, he said. If the crane was not there, the ship would move away without unloading the cargo. “The vessels will go to other ports and once they get used to another port, why will they come back to Mangalore?” he said.

“Why doesn't the port have shore cranes? It is a basic infrastructure at a port. That will put an end to all the trouble over cranes”. Port sources said that they did not expect the crane providers to discontinue. “There was no bad relationship. Suddenly, they have reacted, it is not planned,” they said. Traffic was “not affected even marginally” because gearless vessels were using the port, they said. About the suggestion by Mr. Poojari that the port must have shore cranes, they said “that is also being tried.

Term ends

P. Tamilvanan, Chairman, New Mangalore Port Trust, said: “There is no intention to stop crane operation.” He said that the five-year term for operating cranes ended on September 3. They asked the port to remove the licence fee and to increase the rate as iron ore traffic had reduced. “They do not want to pay the licence fee at all. I said I cannot increase the rate,” he said. The rate now is Rs. 38 per tonne handled as fixed by the Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP).

Mr. Tamilvanan said the port had requested the operators to continue their operation for six months but “never thought they would refuse”.

He said that he had had meetings everyday on the issue to persuade them to resume work. It was not fair of the crane operators to ask for a higher price. “I hope they come back,” he said.

He said two vessels, one of 8,000 tonnes and one of 11,000 tonnes, had been diverted.