The Kerala government on Tuesday shunted out TP Salim Kumar, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Kerala Maritime Board (KMB) as internal bickerings intensify within the agency tasked with the development of the southern state’s maritime sector.

H Dineshan, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Kerala cadre and currently Director of Panchayat, has been entrusted with the full additional charge of CEO, Kerala Maritime Board, according to an order issued by the General Administration Department of the Kerala government on Tuesday.

Salim Kumar, an Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer, was appointed as CEO of the maritime board in January this year. He was the first full-time CEO after the Board came into existence in July 2018.

The Board comprise members, mostly political appointees of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government.

“Kerala Maritime Board is seen as a platform for the government to indulge in political activities rather than promoting coastal trade. Since the Board was formed, CEOs have had short tenures as those not found to be cooperating were eased out of their posts for reasons unknown,” said Munshid Ali, Member, FICCI National Council (Ports & Infrastructure).

A few months ago, a member filed a petition against the Board, much to the government’s embarrassment.

Ali said that Salim Kumar was doing a good job since assuming charge as CEO and was aligned with the needs of the State’s trade.

During his short tenure, coastal shipping resumed operations in Kerala after a hiatus of three years.

Round The Coast Pvt Ltd, a new venture promoted by Mumbai based logistics conglomerate J M Baxi Group, started a short sea container shipping service in June, linking Cochin Port (Vallarpadam) with Beypore and Azhikal ports in the State.

Salim Kumar worked in tandem with the trade bodies/Chambers of Commerce to promote international container transhipment, Ali said.

“His IRS connections came in handy for the upgradation of international codes for Beypore and Azhikal ports. Though his transfer is a government policy, I see strong lobbying by vested interests in his exit from the Kerala Maritime Board,” Ali alleged.

Salim Kumar has been shifted to the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation as general manager, according to the government order.

Kerala, which has a coastline of 590 km, has seen the least development among the country’s coastal states, attributed to a lack of vision by policy makers to tap the state’s coastline for trade and shipping.

“The exit of Salim Kumar will paralyse all the promotional activities done by the state government,” said Prakash Iyer, a former member of the Board and past president of the Cochin Steamer Agents Association.

In other coastal states, the maritime boards are headed by the ports minister or the chief secretary. “Even though we have a determined chief minister in Pinarayi Vijayan who can take Kerala to greater heights with a vision for development, this is not happening in the maritime sector,” said S N Raghuchandran Nair, President, Trivandrum Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“The government must quickly tap the advantage of the State’s coastline, which can be a big revenue earner and employment generator,” Raghuchandran Nair added.