Importers will be free to hire their own transporters for moving direct port delivery (DPD) containers, the government said, after Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) selected four transporters through a tender for moving such containers to different parts of the country.

JNPT will not enter into any direct commercial arrangement with the transporters, according to the new transport arrangement set to come into from May 1. JNPT initially said it would be mandatory for importers to hire the selected transporters for moving DPD containers from the port terminal by entering into a commercial arrangement with them.

The successful transporter shall have the exclusive right to clear the DPD containers from the port for the corresponding route for which it is selected.

Importers will not be allowed to use their own fleet, it had said, while issuing a tender to finalise the transporters.

The transportation arrangement will be for an initial period of three years, with a provision to extend it by another two years at negotiable rate, terms and conditions, on mutual consent.

Importers will be free to make their own transportation arrangements regardless of the transporters finalised by JNPT, said Shipping Secretary Gopal Krishna last week.

The move is seen as holding out an olive branch to some 1,000 small transporters owning about 17,000 vehicles, who have been running the show so far. Maharashtra Heavy Vehicle and Inter-State Container Operators’ Association has threatened to go on an agitation, including stalling port operations, against the new transport plan of JNPT.

The association said that JNPT was trying to create a monopoly of a few transporters and kill small transporters, who have been evacuating the rising volume of DPD containers smoothly on behalf of importers and custom brokers. To ask importers to avail the services of selected transporters only was against law and fundamental rights, said association president, Pravin Paithankar.

After the Bombay High Court refused to intervene in a case brought by the association citing government policy, the association approached the Supreme Court . The transporter finalised through the tender must own 25 per cent of the total tractor trailers required for each route; the rest can be aggregated/procured, according to JNPT.

“Any sustainable transport model in JNPT will work only if the local community, smart transporters and single trailer operators are included. If you take that inclusive approach, then it will be viable. Local players, who have been delivering for the last 26 years, will have a better understanding of local problems, seasonal factors that triggers rate spikes, shortage of drivers, among others. These players will bring stability to the abnormal factors. This way, we can de-congest the port ecosystem, and it will be a win-win situation for everybody. That’s why we have not put stiff condition on truck ownership, we are saying only 25 per cent of the total vehicle requirement must be owned fleet, while the balance can be aggregated,” JNPT chairman in-charge, Neeraj Bansal, told BusinessLine .

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