The Ernakulam District Court issued an injunction on Saturday restraining Jaisu Shipping Company, dredging contractor for Cochin Port Trust, from taking any of its vessels out of the port area.

The port authorities, with the help of the Indian Coast Guard, seized a vessel belonging to the dredging contractor on Friday after it was taken out of the port area. It is learnt that the dredger was being taken out of Kochi Port area without completing the dredging operations. Jaisu Shipping currently has four dredgers at Kochi, including one bucket dredger.

Dredging for both the shipping channel and the Vallarpadam International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) basin area remain incomplete. The shipping channel used by the Cochin Port Trust is also shared by the Indian Navy and the Cochin Shipyard.

Meanwhile, Cochin Port Employees' Organisation has expressed concern at the failure of the port authorities to get the dredging works complete.

A statement issued by C.D. Nanadakumar, general secretary of the organisation, alleged that the port management had failed in strictly following the contract agreement on dredging and also forcing the contractor to follow the agreement.

He said in the statement that the dredging operations would cost the port more than Rs.525 crore and that the contractor had not been able to produce satisfactory results so far. It also alleged that the dredging operations should have been completed by January, 2010. Mr. Nandakumar said that it was obvious that the Port Trust could not provide the required depth of 14.5 metres for the Vallarpadam terminal so far.

The trade unions at the Port want the Government of India to meet the cost of maintenance dredging for the Kochi Port since it is a national requirement, said the statement. The Port will incur expenses to the tune of Rs.120 crore on dredging operations. Of this, Rs.70 crore will go directly into maintenance dredging for the ICTT.

The trade unions are of the view that the government should come forward to foot the dredging bill, the statement said.

To protect the port from dredging cartels, it is important that the public sector Dredging Corporation of India acquire new equipment to cater to the needs of the port.

Dredging for shipping channel and Vallarpadam terminal basin area remain incomplete.

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