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Saturday, Mar 30, 2002

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Plans likely to bring all ports under one regulator

Our Bureau

MUMBAI, March 29

IN a bid to check the emergence of private monopoly in port service, the Surface Transport Ministry is mulling the idea of bringing all the ports in the country — major, minor and intermediates — under one regulator.

The move could impact the existing minor ports and those that are being developed by private parties in various States.

Currently, the Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP) regulates port charges at the 11 major ports in the country. Minor ports are free to fix their own charges but in most cases the rates are finalised in consultation with the State maritime authorities.

According to Mr Michael Pinto, Surface Transport Secretary, non-major ports currently handle about 31 per cent of the total cargo traffic in the country and their share is likely to go up in the near future.

While the tariff at major ports was regulated by TAMP, minor ports were free to fix their rates. This could lead to unfair trade practices. To prevent this, non-minor ports should be brought under the scope of TAMP or any other authority, said Mr Pinto, addressing a meeting of port users organised by the Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The regulatory authority will fix only a ceiling rate below which ports are free to charge. He thinks such regulation is important as a private monopoly could be worse than a public monopoly.

The tariff regulation would be applicable only to ports which were run on a commercial basis. Dedicated ports and captive jetties should be exempted from the regulation, said Mr Pinto.

There are over 150 minor ports in the country. Of which, some of them (particularly in Gujarat) are well developed and are handling a significant volume of cargo.

Gujarat alone has many developed minor ports including the Mundra Port, Pipavav, Dehej, Navlakhi and Porbundar, Bhavnagar. There are several other minor ports and captive jetties in the State. Similarly, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are also developing several ports.

The share of minor ports in the total traffic has gone up from seven per cent in 1993-94 to 31 per cent in 1991-92. .

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