Way clear for full-fledged operations at Vallarpadam

V. Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on February 18, 2011 Published on February 18, 2011

vallarpadam   -  Business Line

The order of a division Bench of the Kerala High Court, staying the single Bench directive to continue RGCT (Rajiv Gandhi Container Terminal) operations for handling coastal cargoes for a further period of three months, has paved the way for full-fledged operation at the ICTT at Vallarpadam.

Terminal operator DP World has commenced loading and unloading operations of container vessel OEL Dubai, which was lying idle at the Rajiv Gandhi Terminal for the last 17 days in the wake of the court order, anchored at the ICTT berth on Friday for cargo discharge.

The decision to berth the vessel was taken by the Steamer Agents Association (SAA) after a meeting on the movement of Exim cargo lying idle in the port for the last two weeks. The idling of the vessel had cost the ship owners $8,800 a day as charter hire charges, besides Rs 2,000 a day as power charges for reefer containers stacked in the RGCT.

Unions protest

However, there were protests from trade unions in allowing the container vessel at ICTT as they were demanding protection of jobs for casual labourers who engaged in various container-related activities at the RGCT. The labour unrest and the High Court order for status quo in domestic cargo handling at RGCT had affected the smooth operations of ICTT at Vallarpadam soon after its inauguration by the Prime Minister last week.

Meanwhile, the wage dispute between the casual labourers and the SAA is still continuing as the workers refused to accept the offer made by the Association for lashing and unlashing workers under the new contractor appointed by the terminal operator at ICTT. The Association had also offered a VRS for the 78 workers at Rs 12 lakh each, for those working under the United Steamer Agents (USA) pool operated by the SAA.

The ship operators pointed out that it would be difficult to operate both the terminals in a port as the ships carry both domestic and export cargoes. The ships have to shuttle between the two terminals to unload and load coastal and Exim cargoes and this will be an additional burden on exporters. The single Bench order meant using RGCT for domestic containers, but this would have been difficult as the port administration has taken all steps to migrate the operations to Vallarpadam from the existing terminal.

As per the contractual agreement with DP World, the Kochi port could not operate a competing facility till the volumes of ICTT reached 2.5 million teus a year, they said.

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Published on February 18, 2011
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