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Monday, Jun 17, 2002

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Govt keen on trimming cost at major ports

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Mr V.P. Goyal

CHENNAI, June 16

A MAJOR cost reduction exercise has been initiated in all the 12 major ports in the country. The exercise would involve active participation from the port users and the chambers of commerce and industry.

``I will have a series of interactions with port users in all the ports, starting with Chennai today, in the next few weeks," the Shipping Minister, Mr Ved Prakash Goyal, told newspersons here on Sunday.

The Minister will visit Tuticorin on Monday to launch a similar exercise there.

He said unless there was cost reduction in port-related charges, there was no compulsion for the liners (main line vessel operators) to visit the Indian ports. There are many other options available to the liners. "And, if we don't attract the liners, all the ports would become sick. The challenge is survival and growth," he added.

When asked to elaborate on the areas where cost reduction would be undertaken, the Minister said, excess labour was one area which would need greater attention in all the major ports, The Ministry would propose attractive VRS to bring down the number of workers.

Incidental expenses was another area where cost needed to be brought down at the ports. The Chennai port users have cited a few more such examples, and the Ministry would look into those, he added. To a query whether any target would be set for the port trusts on cost reduction, the Minister said the port trusts would set their own targets, and the Ministry would monitor them closely. There would be penalty if they failed to achieve the target, he said.

According to Mr Goyal, in October last the Ministry had an interaction with the Mumbai port users, and within three months, most of the `irritants' in the Customs, the port and other agencies had been cleared. Similar exercise would be undertaken in all the other ports, he said.

The Minister pointed out that with the setting up of new board at all the major ports recently, the Ministry would like to create awareness among the board members as to what was expected of them.

With the port trust boards having an authority to spend up to Rs 100 crore, the members should properly utilise the freedom given to them to improve the working and efficiency of the ports, he said. The Ministry plans a series of meetings with the board members in a few months to create the awareness, he added.

"We need to create new environment in port management to compete globally," the Minister said. "We need to provide the same level of efficiency prevailing in ports such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Colombo. The involvement of labour is very important in this," he added.

`NEERI studying Sethu project'

THE Sethusadudram canal project, started as early as 1826, would not suffer due to want of financial outlay.

The Prime Minister himself has given an open commitment regarding this, said the Shipping Minister, Mr Ved Prakash Goyal.

The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, is preparing the techno-economic feasibility report on the project. The report would spell out the scope of the work and the target completion of the work assigned to NEERI was 12 months.

Once the environment clearance was obtained, a detailed project report (DPR) would be prepared immediately, and the work was likely to commence next yea and would be completed in about three years.

With all the relevant data already available, there would not be any delay in preparing a DPR. "Environment clearance is a major issue, and we want to take up that first," he added.

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