Says it will only benefit the Essar group

The CITU affiliated United Port and Dock Employees’ Union has lashed out at the Visakhapatnam Port Trust for signing the concessionaire agreement on the Ore Handling Complex (OHC) with the Essar group saying that it would only serve the group.

At a press meet here on Sunday, union general secretary V.S Padmanabha Raju and president K.S Kumar said that all norms had been violated in the process of the signing of the agreement that was signed in a five-star hotel in Chennai on Friday by the port authorities in the presence of Union Shipping Minister G.K Vasan.

“In the first place, signing the pact in Chennai itself is outrageous and we went on a day's protest strike on Friday. We are planning an agitation, if the Union Shipping Ministry and the port authorities do not revoke the decision,” he said.

Three years ago the port had mooted the modernisation of the OHC at a cost of Rs 300 crores or so and a Japanese funding agency had come forward, but subsequently the port authorities and the Union Shipping Ministry changed the decision and decided to go for bidding to privatise the OHC.

It was awarded to the Essar Group for development at a cost of Rs 845 crore and the group would initially pay upfront fees of Rs 185 crore.

“The upfront fee was also reduced drastically from Rs 300 crore to Rs 185 crore to favour the group.

Further, the guidelines issued by the Union government itself on the PPP projects were violated. One of the guidelines clearly states that no one private group or company should be allowed to monopolise the PPP projects in a PSU organisation. Already, the Essar group has been awarded berths in the outer harbour as well as the inner harbour. Now the OHC has gone to the group as well.

The port authorities seem to love the group for reasons best known to them,” they alleged. The two union leaders alleged that there were several other violations and a case was pending in the AP High Court against the move of the authorities. “We demand that the contract be revoked and the port should take up the modernisation work on its own. It has reserves of Rs 2,000 crore and it can easily borrow from the market, if need be. In fact, when there were no takers for WQ-7 and WQ-8 berths in the port, the authorities have gone ahead and taken up the projects on their own at a cost of Rs 394 crore. The same can be done for OHC,” they added.

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