The Cochin port authority and trade unions have denied paying or receiving nokkukooli in the operation of the recently acquired mobile harbour crane.

Port Trust sources said on Sunday that Chairman Paul Antony issued instructions to the Mechanical Engineering Department to deploy workers only when there was sufficient work for the crane. The department was also asked not to stick to the routine deployment of workers irrespective of the work availability.

Since the crane was acquired nearly three months ago 15 workers used to be deployed in three shifts a day. However, there was not enough work in some of the shifts, leading to allegations that those deployed for crane operations were being paid without doing any work.

However, a spokesman for CITU said that the Port Trust had only the intention of making full use of the heavy duty crane when redeploying the crane operators recently.

There were a total of 16 wharf cranes operated by nearly a 100 workers in the past. However, the last of these cranes was decommissioned 22 months ago and the new 40-tonne capacity crane was acquired nearly three months ago at a cost of Rs.16 crore.

The spokesman said that since there was sufficient demand for the use of the crane from stevedores it was decided that some of the crane operators, who were redeployed at the time of decommissioning of the old cranes, would be brought back for crane operations.

The port authority re-deployed 15 people in three shifts per day. However, there were days when work was slack because the cranes were operated only when vessels were in port. The lack of sufficient work for workers in some of the shifts led to allegations that the crane operators were being paid salaries even where there was no work. It has now been decided by the port authority to deploy crane operators only when there is sufficient work.

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