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A tough leader with a humane heart


The success of any organisation depends on the person at the top, who constantly motivates his team to contribute their best for its growth. Visakhapatnam Port Trust was fortunate to have such a visionary leader in its past Chairman, the late H.S. Samba Murthy. VPT owes its numero uno status today to the timely decisions taken and work done during his tenure.

He was instrumental in the construction of the Outer Harbour, which helped in catapulting the port to the top slot among all major ports in the country.

VPT had spent Rs.100 crore on the construction of the Outer Harbour 25 years ago, and not a single audit objection was raised or CBI case registered as is common these days. Such was the integrity of the man at the helm of affairs at that time. No contractor ever dared to approach him and politicians respected him but never sought any favour from him.

Samba Murthy had served the Indian Army during World War II. Later, he was made ADC to the Governor in Madras. Subsequently, he became an IAS officer and served in various places in AP. He was posted VPT Chairman in 1967. His military discipline and training helped him deal with the workers in the right manner. He never tolerated indiscipline but at the same time was magnanimous and kind towards them.

"This labour-intensive and service industry needs a disciplined workforce and being a strict disciplinarian himself, Samba Murthy knew how to coax out the best from the workers. He never indulged in dilly-dallying tactics and to most of the suggestions and complaints, his answer was a firm `yes' or `no'. At the same time, he had a deep concern for the welfare of workers and, no wonder, he commanded their respect. Even the staunch Communist leader, M.V. Bhadram, had appreciated Samba Murthy's style of functioning," recalls retired Financial Adviser, Paul Vedam, who had served during that time.

When Japan started importing iron ore from India, the ore from the Bailadila mines initially used to be exported from Paradip Port in Orissa and in small quantities from Visakhapatnam Port as a second outlet. The Japanese were not satisfied with the facilities at the Ore Handling Complex in the Inner Harbour. In the past, ships up to 1,000 dwt were used but in course of time the capacity of the ships increased to 1 lakh dwt. Loading of cargo into such huge ships required better handling facilities for quick overhaul.

The Japanese sent an official team of 21 experts to identify the prospects of improving facilities for boosting iron ore imports from India. Though the ore from Australia and South Africa was of better quality, the Japanese preferred Indian ore as they found that refining the Bailadilla ore worked out cheaper.

The team surveyed Paradip, Visakhapatnam, Madras and Tuticorin ports. Samba Murthy appointed Howe (India) Limited, a Canadian firm, as a consultant. The head of the firm, Rossler, put forth various alternatives for improving the ore exports to Japan. He had suggested, among other things, development of a new port at Gangavaram, widening of the entrance channel to the Inner Harbour and development of an Outer Harbour.

The Japanese were impressed by his presentation and preferred Vizag Port for the construction of an Outer Harbour.

The Japanese also felt that the inherent facilities available in Visakhapatnam like a natural harbour were the best compared to the other ports. The Outer Harbour was conceived to load 15 million tonnes of cargo. Wonder of wonders, the Outer Harbour construction was completed in four consecutive seasons. In view of the harsh weather conditions at the harbour construction was done only during December to March.

The sophisticated conveyor system designed for loading the ore onto ships posed legal problems as it had to pass over the town. The consultant suggested that the conveyor system should be over the ground, and immediately a decision was taken putting an end to the problem once and for all.

The first Deputy Chairman of VPT, A.W. Delima, rates Samba Murthy as the best Chairman, the port has ever had. Most of the port quarters were constructed during his tenure.

A bust of this great man who was responsible for the rapid growth and prosperity of the port has been installed at the Meghadripeta Port Quarters.

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