Kolkata Port Trust’s decision to scrap the fixed berthing slots tender draws flak

P Manoj MUMBAI | Updated on August 14, 2019 Published on August 14, 2019

Kolkata Port Trust will call fresh bids after scrapping and earlier tender to allot fixed window berthing rights to two container feeder operators at its mobile harbor crane (MHC) equipped berths.

The tender is aimed at boosting productivity of the existing berths run by Kolkata Port Trust, thereby bringing additional revenue to the Port Trust.

X-Press Feeders and Bengal Tiger Line had emerged the highest bidders for the fixed berthing slots by separately quoting guaranteed volumes of more than 52,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) per window per annum when the bids were opened in July. Far Shipping and Shreyas Shipping were the other bidders in the fray.

In effect, a berth handling only 40,000 TEUs, will suddenly start handling 50,000 plus TEUs. And, because of better operations of the two berths, automatically it will reduce congestion on other berths also. So, it is a win-win for both sides, said a shipping industry executive.

Kolkata Port Trust had set a minimum volume of 45,000 TEUs per annum per window and feeder operators quoting the highest volume above the minimum level would be awarded the two fixed berthing slots for 12 months, according to tender terms.

The fixed windows will be available for berthing vessels with minimum gross registered tonnage (GRT) of 6,000.

The scrapping of the tender after opening the bids have come under flak for lack of transparency at a time when the shipping ministry has streamlined the tendering processes at major ports substantially over the past five years to avoid litigations.

“It’s a retrograde step”, said a shipping industry sourced briefed on the cancellation of the tender. “Such acts would send a wrong signal to investors more so when the economy is going through a rough patch,” he said.

“In all fairness, to a large extend, the government has reached a level of transparency by removing the opaqueness in the bidding process at major ports during the tenure of Nitin Gadkari. And, investors are more than convinced that now there is a bidding process which is transparent in India which was not the case earlier. So, with the new electoral mandate which this government has, one would expect them to be not transparent in the bidding process,” he said.

“After opening the bids, Kolkata Port Trust has arbitrarily dismissed the tender, negating the logic behind the bidding process. For no reason at all, Kolkata Port Trust has terminated the tender. It takes the rationale behind a transparent bidding process backwards,” the shipping industry official said.

Vinit Kumar, the chairman of Kolkata Port Trust told Business Line that the tender was scrapped due to “unavoidable circumstances and some procedural issues”. He declined to elaborate further but added that the port trust will “re-tender” the work.

Published on August 14, 2019
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