It was a rare opportunity for the top honchos and various stakeholders of Chennai and Ennore port to pour out their woes to the Shipping Ministry and port officials and they did it with élan.
Attending an interactive meeting on ports organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), they raised issues pertaining to congestion, Customs, issues in container terminals, road connectivity and expediting new projects with Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan.
“Chennai Port is at a critical juncture in its history due to the recent directive of the Madras High Court banning the handling of dusty cargo. Chennai Port Trust (ChPT) has already stopped handling coal and iron ore. It not only hurts the port's finances but has also made us to give deep thought to formulating the priorities of the port and find ways and means to overcome the fallout of the judgment,” Mr. Vasan said.
Noting that a two-member expert committee headed by Capt. V.C.K. Mohan submitted its recommendations on improving the functioning of the ChPT to bring back financial normalcy and turn the harbour into a profitable venture, he said though short-term measures could help ease the seasonal or emergent congestion issues temporarily, the solution laid in implementing the long-term projects to tackle the issue on a permanent basis.
Urging ChPT chairman Atulya Misra to accord priority to these issues, he said, “If port users start looking for alternatives it will be very difficult for the port to come out of its present difficult phase.” ChPT should come up with workable solutions, appoint a committee to look into these issues expeditiously; and co-ordinate with the Customs department so that there was no loss of business. On unforeseen delay in execution of projects floated under Public-Private-Partnership mode, Mr. Vasan said that continuous meetings were being held to monitor 22 projects valued at Rs.16,000 crore.
By March-end, at least five to six projects, including that of Rs.6,700 crore Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, would become a reality.
The Ennore-Manali Road Improvement Project would also be completed by June 2013. Talking to reporters, Mr. Misra said that during the current year, the Chennai Port might report a dip of 13 million tonnes in its total volume due to the prevailing ban on export of dusty cargo amounting to Rs.200 crore. Last year, the port handled 18 million tonnes of iron ore and coal valued at Rs.226 crore. During 2011-12, iron ore was totally missing and till September, they received only 50 per cent of coal.
“If we had received our regular quota of iron ore and coal, we would have earned about Rs.200 crore. We will not call it a revenue loss, as we did not receive them and nor was it diverted to other ports. We have started focussing on clean cargo such as containers, cars, cruise, project cargo, fertilisers and edible oil to utilise the space.”
On the Rs.6,700 crore Mega Container Terminal, he said that the port has invited bids from seven firms and work order would be issued by March.