The Cochin Port Joint Trade Union Forum has come out against all forms of concessions to vessels, including coastal and cruise, saying they make the port’s finances vulnerable.

It is said that the port is granting huge concessions on vessel-related charges to ensure cost-effectiveness and to successfully compete with other container hubs in the region and neighbouring ports. CD Nandakumar, General Convenor of the Forum, urged the government to reconsider giving concession of up to 85 per cent to cruise vessels and to levy the lowest charges on coastal vessels.

The Forum requested the visiting Minister of State for Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya to evolve some viable alternatives to save the port from the huge financial liability on annual maintenance dredging, which is the highest expenditure component and accounts for 35-40 per cent of the operating expenses (₹110 crore).

In a memorandum, the unions requested the Ministry provide an alternative with a proportionate cost-sharing formula for all approach channel users such as Cochin Shipyard, Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Lakshadweep Administration. The expenditure to make ship channel safe for navigation should be met by the Centre as recommended by the Rakesh Mohan committee, the unions said.

It also highlighted the acute shortage of manpower, which is hindering the smooth operations and functions of the port.

Shortage of manpower

The revival and redevelopment of Willingdon Island was the other demand put forward by the trade unions to improve revenue as well as to create job opportunities. The migration of container-handling operations to International Container Transship Terminal (ICTT), Vallarpadam, Kochi, has rendered Willingdon Island dormant, rendering thousands of workers jobless.

On the licence agreement for ICTT, Nandakumar requested the government for a comprehensive revisit and rewriting of the agreement as the licencee is least bothered in fulfilling its obligations. Though the terminal operator had commenced container handling operations in April 2005, it could not achieve even 25 per cent of the targeted volume of 2.5 million TEUs, he said.

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