Various associations of fishermen, on Wednesday, strongly objected to a new barge handling facility proposed by the Chennai Port at its Bharati Dock.

Airing their opinions at a public hearing conducted by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board at New Washermenpet, fisherfolk said that oil leaks were likely due to the proposed barge jetty. Chennai Port Trust civil engineer S. Madabhavi explained that the new jetty will be used to handle bunker oil, edible oil and water. The cargo would be imported in oil tankers and handled through unloading arms.

The official, who spoke on behalf of the Port, also explained that the likelihood of oil spillage occurring was primarily when ships approached or left the port through the navigational channel and suitable disaster management protocols had been suggested for such incidents.

District Collector E. Sundaravalli also heard out the responses of the fishermen to the proposal. Nanjil Ravi of Akila Indhiya Meenavar Sangam said “With the movement of more ships and barges, our nets will get cut and more fishermen will die in accidents.”

Ko. Su. Mani of Tamil Nadu Meenavar Makkal Sangam said that coastal pollution led to a drastic reduction in fish catch at Kasimedu, forcing them to fish near Andhra Pradesh. M.D. Dayalan of the Indhiya Meenavar Sangam said that the oil spills from the barge facility will lead to the death of fish. “Small fibre boats and catamarans cannot go farther into the sea and those men will lose their livelihood,” he said.

They alleged that the proposed jetty would increase the chances of oil spills