Crane operator falls to his death at PSA-Sical Terminals

P Manoj Mumbai | Updated on August 01, 2021

Representational image

Woes mount for Singapore’s PSA International, the majority owner of the terminal


A crane operator fell to his death on Saturday from one of the rail-mounted quay cranes (RMQCs) operating at PSA-Sical Terminals Ltd, the facility majority owned by Singapore’s PSA International Pte Ltd at VOC Port Trust in an incident that is bound to raise questions on the safety of three such cranes at the terminal that were due for replacement between 2016 and 2019.

The incident adds to the woes of PSA-Sical Terminals after the Supreme Court on July 28 overturned an arbitration tribunal award that allowed the terminal operator to rewrite the contract by switching to a revenue share format from a royalty model.

PSA-Sical will have to start paying the royalty amount as per the original license agreement and also settle the royalty arrears estimated worth over Rs3,000 crores by VOCPT in the wake of the ruling by the apex court.

PSA-Sical is contractually bound to replace the three rail mounted quay cranes (RMQCs) of single lift spreader deployed at the terminal “between 17th to 20th year from the date of existence of the assets”, according to the license agreement signed with VOCPT. This timeline was between 2016 and 2019.

RMQCs are used to unload and load cargo containers from and to a ship.

Old cranes

The terminal operator has delayed the process of replacing the old cranes with new modern gears citing rate issues and multiple court cases. VOCPT said this was an event of default that entitles the port authority to terminate the deal as per the license agreement.

The port authority had also brought this issue to the notice of the terminal operator many times suggesting that it would hamper safety, productivity and performance of the facility.

Following the death of K Ganesh, 40, a senior container equipment specialist, the unions have stopped work at the terminal.

In a mail sent to Superintendent of Police, Tuticorin, R Rusel, District Secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) blamed “unsafe working conditions and unfit old cranes” for the mishap.

“It is presumed that the cause of accident was unsafe working condition of the quay crane and the terminal,” Rusel, who represents labour interest on the board of trustees of VOCPT wrote in the e-mail to the SP, seen by BusinessLine.

Rusel also urged the SPs “intervention for a fair investigation and to save the lives of other workers from recurrence of accidents in future”.

Deep Kishore Reddy, terminal manager at PSA-Sical Terminals, confirmed the “fatality”, but declined to talk further saying he was “at the hospital”.

VOCPT also confirmed the death of the crane operator at PSA-Sical Terminals.

On Sunday, the mother of the deceased crane operator also passed away while his body was taken for cremation. She died apparently of a heart attack, said CITU’s Rusel. 

With the Supreme Court order, employees are concerned about the fate of the terminal. “About 200 employees who are dependent on the terminal for their livelihood fear that they will lose jobs if the terminal is closed. The situation is pathetic,” Rusel added.  

Published on July 31, 2021

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