Logistics

Shiv Sena, NCP back workers protest to stall privatisation of JNPT self-operated box terminal

P Manoj Mumbai | Updated on December 15, 2020

Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party, coalition partners in the Maharashtra government, are backing protests by workers to stall a plan by Centre-owned Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) to privatise the container terminal run by the port authority at the port located near Mumbai.

Sunil Tatkare, the NCP law maker representing the Raigad constituency where the port is located, and Shrirang Barne, the Shiv Sena Member of Parliament, representing Maval constituency, will participate in a demonstration called by the port workers on Wednesday to press the port authority to drop the plan, according to worker unions.

“The JNPT management is expected to approach its Board of Trustees soon to approve a plan to privatise the terminal. We want to stop it,” said a union source.

JN Port Container Terminal (JNPCT), one of the five container terminals operating at JNPT, handled 720,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in FY20 from 1.04 million TEUs in FY19. It has a capacity to handle 1.35 million TEUs a year.

Tumbling numbers

In three years, JNPCT’s volumes have tumbled by more than half from 1.53 million TEUs in FY17 to 1.48 million TEUs in FY18, 1.04 million TEUs in FY19 and 720,000 TEUs in FY20.

JNPCT is an exception among such facilities at Indian ports where container terminals are run by private specialists.

Aside lack of infrastructure such as modern cranes to load and unload containers and compete with private rivals, JNPCT has a drawback that is unique to it, compared to private operators. That is its single terminal status with a berth length of 680 metres.

Big guns in the industry leverage their large terminal network presence globally to attract shipping lines, their main clients that brings business.

It is common in the terminal industry for operators to ask a container carrier to call at its facility, say in JNPT, if it wants a berthing window at any of their terminals elsewhere globally and vice-versa. JNPCT being a single terminal operator does not have the clout to either retain a line or attract new lines to its terminal, said a port industry consultant.

To dilute workers’ opposition, the government may restrict the tender to Indian firms under the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ programme, government sources said.

Published on December 15, 2020

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