Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Port Wings Editorial: India needs to equip her ports to accommodate larger ships


Port Wings Editorial, Dec 31, 2014:

India has a coastline spanning 7516.6 kilometers, forming one of the biggest peninsulas in the world. It is serviced by 12 major ports and over 180 non-major ports.
Since the Indian government has a federal structure, maritime transport is to be administered by both the Central and the State governments.
While the central government's shipping ministry administers the major ports, the non-major ports are administered by the relevant departments or ministries in the nine coastal states West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
The port infrastructure in our country, be it major ports or non-major ports, is abysmally low when compared to other developed maritime nations. There is a growing demand to have longer quay length facilities to accommodate even the 18000 TEUs-capacity vessels to dock.
The telling example of country’s present status of maritime infrastructure is CSCL Globe, currently world’s largest container carrying vessel, which cannot dock in any Indian ports due to its size and draft requirements.
While the shipping companies are intending to go for larger vessels to save their cost on bunkering and transportation, availability of only larger vessels in future could spell doom for Indian ports.
So, it is time for the government of India to develop two ports, one in the east coast and one on the west coast, to accommodate bigger and larger vessels.
While Chennai Port, one of the oldest ports in the country and known as the “Eastern Gateway Port” by Exim fraternity in the region, had plans to go for mega container terminal with a capacity to accommodate 18000-TEUs capacity vessels. However, the project slipped to cold storage due to poor response from developers.
Chennai in the east coast and JNPT in the west coast would be ideal ports to develop such facilities, where they can accommodate larger vessels.
According to latest data on larger vessels, about 260 ships larger than 10,000 TEU were operated by 16 of the top 25 carriers, while another 143 units were on order. Their capacities range between 10,000 TEU and around 19,000 TEU. The average nominal capacity of all existing and coming ultra large container ships (ULCS) is 13,500 TEU.
So, it is time for Government of India to ponder over the issue seriously and set its goal for setting up such facilities sooner than later.
Otherwise, Indian ports will simply become a feeder ports transshipping containers originating from the country to either at Colombo or to Port Klang in future.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

KPL aims big, plans to increase handling capacity to 100 MT by 2020


Port Wings News Network:

With the existing as well as proposed expansion projects lined up in the port, we are hopeful to reach 100 Million Tonnes  (MTPA)capacity by 2020, Mr M A Bhaskarachar, Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Kamarajar Port Limited, the erstwhile Ennore Port, has said.

In an exclusive interview to Port Wings, Mr Bhaskarachar said, “Our existing capacity is 30 MT and projects for adding another 39 MT have already been awarded. In the next five years, we have planned to award another 32 MT capacity addition projects. So, all put together, KPL would be a 100 MTPA facility by 2020.”

It’s worth recalled here that KPL received two prestigious awards -- “PSE Excellence Award 2014 for Operational Performance” and “Company of the Year” from the Department of Public Enterprises, Government of India and Indian Chamber of Commerce recently.


Q: Tell us about your mission 100 MTPA?

M A Bhaskarachar: “We have existing facilities like Coal Terminal for TNEB (12 MT), Common User Marine Liquid Terminal (3 MT), Common User Coal Terminal (8 MT), Common User Iron Ore Terminal (6 MT) and Automobile Export Terminal with one MT.  Besides the 30 MT existing capacity, we have awarded capacity adding projects like development of Container Terminal (16.8 MT), multi-cargo terminal (2 MT), construction of coal berth-3 for TNEB (9 MT) upgradation of coal berth-2 (4 MT), development of LNG Terminal (5 MT) and enhancement of common user coal terminal-1 (2 MT). Furthermore, in the next five years, we have planned to award another 32 MT capacity adding projects like development of common user MTL-2, construction of coal berth-4 for TNEB, development of second automobile export terminal, captive berth for bulk cargo and upgradation of conversion of Iron Ore terminal. So, the capacity of the port will be upgraded to 100 Million Tonnes per annum (MTPA) by the end of 2020.

Q. Tell us about the status of Northern Rail Link (NRL)?

MAB: With the increasing rail traffic of Kamarajar Port and also in order to have an alternate rail route from the main line to KPL, apart from existing rail connectivity, we have evinced interest in providing Northern Rail Link. The proposed NRL takes off from the northern side of Minjur Station (in the Chennai-Gudur Railway mainline) and enters into KPL. A “Y” connection is proposed both at Minjur take off and at the Port entry/exit side.  The dtailed feasibility report has been approved by the Railways. The total length of the proposed NRL is about 12 kms. Preparation of DPR is completed.

Q. Tell us about the status of road connectivity projects?

MAB: A road link known as Northern Port Access Road was initially planned to link KPL to NH-5 at Tachur by NHAI for providing seamless evacuation of cargo from Kamarajar Port. Now the project has been undertaken by the Tamil Nadu Government and the first phase of the project linking KPL to the Outer Ring Road (ORR) is being undertaken by the state. Alignment of the road has been finalized. State govt. is going to issue notification for land acquisition shortly. Regular follow-up of the project is being done by KPL with the state government. As far as the four-laning of TPP Road is concerned, the work was completed.

Chennai Port’s appeal to TN Govt goes unheard


Port Wings News Network:

With the Tamil Nadu state government failing to respond to the passionate plea from Chennai Port management to allow the movement of different cargo-laden vehicles through Gate No-10 (War Memorial Gate) to save EXIM trade, the future of the port in limbo.
According to sources, the port management had sent a detailed representation to Mr C V Shankar, Additional Chief Secretary to the Tamil Nadu government (Industries Dept) and Mr S George, Chennai City Police Commissioner in the first week of December on the impact of ban on movement of vehicles from Chennai Port (along Poonamalle High Road) through Gate No-10. However, nothing moved since then and the ban started affecting the port’s growth very badly. 
Citing facilitation to Metro Rail work on the Poonamalle Road, Chennai City Traffic Police authorities in mid-November imposed a blanket ban on movement of all types of cargo-laden vehicles (car carrier trucks, granite-laden trailers, general cargo carrying vehicles and certain container trailers) from Gate No-10.
Officially, Chennai Port has 10 gates for movement of cargoes. When it comes to actual usage, only three gates are in operation now. Though volume of cargo (both breakbulk and containerized) and traffic (both heavy vehicles and container trailers) has grown up several times over the years, only these three gates cater to all the movement.
While Zero Gate alone has round-the-clock movement facility now, other two gates -- 2A and No-10 (opposite to War Memorial) are used for movement only during late night hours.

Out of the total 2000-odd vehicles entering the port, about 65% -75% vehicles enter through Zero Gate situated at the northern end of the port and around 20 % move through the Gate No-10. Prior to 2009, the gate used to handle around 900 vehicles (both entry and exit).

According to port sources, due to the latest restrictions imposed by the Chennai City Traffic Police, the EXIM trade (using Chennai Port for their needs), which is already affected by the congestion on Ennore-Manali Road (EMRIP), is severely handicapped.


However, car carriers, using their “influence” in the port management and the Police Department, got the relaxation within few days and resumed movement.
According to exim trade, while it remains mystery on how the car carriers got the relaxation within days, another important segment like granite, is still not being given permission to resume movement through Gate 10.

When contacted Mr I Jeyakumar, Deputy Chairman of Chennai Port Trust, on the allegations of influence by car carriers, he refused to divulge any details.

Due to the ban, movement of rough Granite blocks to Chennai Port has been badly affected and the port could face a serious revenue fall in coming months.

If the ban on movement of vehicles through War Memorial Gate is not relaxed soon, it will badly reflect on the industries located in Tamil Nadu state as well as the EXIM trade based out of Chennai, warned an expert from freight forwarding association.
“Chennai City Police, in consultation with the Port authorities and the EXIM fraternity, could devise a mechanism, which could be win-win for all. Moreover, the Tamil Nadu government should understand that vehicles coming from western parts of the city to the port cannot go and join the already lengthy queue on EMRIP in northern Chennai, which could add more problems to movement,” the expert added.
According to a stakeholder, if the police authorities form a convoy system to regulate movement of vehicles from the Gate, it will serve both the purpose, as it will streamline cargo movement without affecting the Metro Rail work along Poonamalle Road.
Speaking to Port Wings, another senior official from the port clarified that they (port management) are not in a position to ban entry of any vehicles through the gate and it is the police department of Tamil Nadu Government did it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mormugao Port bets big on future projects


Port Wings News Network:

With a view to promote cruise shipping in Goa, Mormugao Port had already constructed berth for cruise ships and a dedicated cruise terminal building will be constructed shortly, Mr Cyril George, Chairman, Mormugao Port Trust, has said.
In an exclusive interview to Port Wings, MPT Chairman said, “A dedicated cruise terminal building will be constructed shortly at a cost of Rs. 8.79 crores for which grants have been obtained from Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India.”
“Architect for designing the building already appointed and the facility is expected to complete by March 2016,” he added in the interview.
Q. Tell us about the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) expansion plans and whether the Centre has provided guidelines or consultation on its implementation?
Mr Cyril George: We have lined up several important projects in the next five years, which include multipurpose cargo handling, mechanized coal handling, offshore liquid bulk handling, and construction of Vasco Bay. All the projects would be taken up under public private partnership (PPP) mode.
MPT has proposed to develop a multipurpose cargo berth (5.74 MTPA Capacity) on design, built, finance, operate, transfer (DBFOT) basis. The project cost is around Rs 950 crore and is expected to get the approval from the central government by February 2015. This development involves construction of two general cargo berths for increasing throughput of the port.
Another important project is conversion of mechanical ore handling plant from handling general cargo (9.50 MTPA Capacity) on PPP base. The total cost of project is around Rs 520 crore and expected to get Union Government approval by March 2016. The project involves conversion of the existing iron ore berth and ore handling plant for general cargo.

MPT has also proposed to develop an offshore liquid bulk handling project (2.00 MTPA Capacity) between Mooring Dolphin 1 and 2. The total cost of project is Rs 100 crore and is expected to receive the government nod by March 2016. Under this project, existing POL Handling Berth No 8 will have to be shifted offshore between Mooring Dolphin 1 & 2. This is about 800m away and liquid cargo will be handled by laying submarine pipelines.
The fourth project is to develop the general cargo berth (2.00 MTPA Capacity) in lieu of the ship repair yard in the harbour area. The project cost is Rs 210 crore and is expected to get the government permission by May 2018. Presently this area has been leased to WISL for ship repair facility on lease agreement. This lease period expires in March 2018.
We have also proposed to develop the Vasco Bay (4.00 MTPA Capacity) at the cost of Rs 250 crore. Union government is likely to give permission by December 2018. Presently, water area is occupied by Fishing Jetty.  The rehabilitation/ shifting of fishing jetty issue shall have to be resolved by Govt. of Goa in order to conceive the project.
Other Port Development Projects like creation of matching facilities to cater the proposed dry port (0.36 MTPA Capacity- i.e. 30,000 TEUs) at Belgaum, Karnataka, is also on the cards. The work, estimated to be Rs 15 crores, to be taken up after obtaining grants from Ministry of Commerce under ASIDE Scheme.
As regards to implementation of above projects, they have to be implemented on approval from Ministry and awarded through PPP mode. Detailed Project Report shall have to be prepared and project shall have to be technically feasible and financially viable. Ministry has issued guidelines on implementation of PPP projects and Model Documents are also available.

Q. What are the plans for dredging of the Port and the estimated cost for it? How would it help the port development?
CG: Besides these development projects, we will also take up dredging of the existing outer channel that is to be deepened from -14.3 mtrs to -19.8 mtrs and the inner turning circle from -14.1 mtrs to -19.5 mtrs. The cost of the project is Rs 300 crore and approval for this project is expected by May 2015. On execution of above projects, throughput of the port will increase.

Q. Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister, Mr Nitin Gadkari has recently stated that he has asked MPT to come up with a report on the feasibility of starting satellite ports in Maharashtra and Karnataka.  Whether the study has been completed? If so, kindly share the details with us.
CG: Mormugao Port has requested the Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka, to look into the feasibility of jointly developing a Port in Karnataka at locations such as in Tadri, Belekeri or any other suitable location.

Q: Tell us about new Road/Rail Connectivity Projects?
CG: For seamless connectivity, we have proposed construction of 4-Lane Road at an estimated cost of Rs 546 crores. This project is taken up jointly by NHAI, Mormugao Port Trust and Government of Goa. Tripartite Agreement was signed in Nov 02, 2014. Project will be executed by PWD, Government of Goa. Construction would commence by April 2015.

Q. Goa is a tourism destination.  Are there any plans to promote cruise shipping by the MPT including plans for separate terminals for such vessels?

CG: Mormugao Port had already constructed berth for cruise ships and a dedicated cruise terminal building will be constructed shortly at a cost of Rs. 8.79 crores for which grants have been obtained from Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India.  Architect for designing a building already appointed.  Building is expected to complete by March 2016.

Q. Tell us the details of the land with the MPT including the details for its use as per the recent land use plan directions from the Ministry of Shipping?
CG: Mormugao port is having land area of 546.acres. The land use plan is not yet finalized since some clarifications are to be received from Ministry as regards to Land Policy for Major Port, 2014.

Q. Brief us the details of the capacity expansion projects for the Port including the present capacity and the cargo traffic?
CG: I have already detailed about expansion projects for the port. The present capacity of the Port is 43.76 MMTPA. Traffic handled for 2013-14 is 11.74 MT and 2014-15 (till Nov. 2014) 9.04 MT. For the current year, traffic is projected at 15.50 million tons.

Q. How is the port helpful in boosting Goa’s economy?
CG: Ports contribute to the State’s Economic Growth since the direct beneficiaries are the Industries. Considerable gains in terms of employment generation also happens due to port related activities. Cruise Tourism which is promoted by the Port in a big way hugely benefits the Tourism industries with considerable multiplier effects.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bhagwad Gita, Ram Mandir can wait, Growth can’t…


Port Wings Editorial: Dec 17, 2014:

While the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a mission to resurrect the lost image of India in front the developed nations (read potential investors), a few loose cannons from his Bharatiya Janata Party are out to destroy what he had achieved in his first six months.

While a BJP senior leader Ram Naik, now Governor of Uttar Pradesh, leaving behind all protocol to remain a non-partisan given the post, openly advocated for building Ram Temple, another senior leader, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj demanded Bhagvad Gita should be declared a as a national scripture, thus sending shockwaves among the moderates in the country.
Though the BJP’s president Amit Shah tried to douse the matter by discarding them as personal views of those leaders and nothing to do with the NDA or BJP’s agenda for good governance, the fire lit by these senior party functionaries refused to be die down any time sooner.
These latest outbursts by senior party leaders that could derail the whole image of BJP-led Central Government, comes at a critical juncture, where Modi is fast running out of trusted lieutenants to manage the damage control.
According to experts, Prime Minister Modi should rein in on those loose cannons of BJP, who could do more harm than good to the country as well to its well-stitched social fabric. 
Modi has to act transparently on such sensitive issue like this and his stoic silence towards the matter could be construed by the moderate Indians as tacit support to the views aired by those senior leaders.
In the first six months of rule, PM Modi had walked extra miles to change the face of India infront of the global economic powers, who were pessimistic about the emergence of Right Wing BJP to power and its economic policies.
However, Modi, during his overseas visits, pooh-poohed all their unwarranted concerns and emphatically projected the new government at the Centre as business friendly
However, his vision of development for India could crumble like a pack of cards if fanatical views take centre-stage.
Hence, the priority should be GROWTH and development for the Modi government than supporting or mixing jingles with those unwarranted voices.
So, it is time for PM Modi to check the loudness of such unnecessary voices coming out of BJP camp, which are basically meant to confuse the voters and polarise them virtually.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

For “MAKE IN INDIA” success, role of SEZs is crucial


Port Wings News Network:

Dr. Swarna, IAS., Joint Development Commissioner, MEPZ, addressing the gathering during the Commerce Ministry’s Roadshow held in Chennai recently. Also seen (from left) Mr. C Velan, CEO – Tril Info Park Ltd., Mr. Shivachandra Reddy – Regional Chairman – EPCES, Mr A K Chouwdhary, ITS, Development Commissioner, MEPZ and Mr, Atul anand IAS, MD, ELCOT.

With a view to accelerating the growth in Indian economy, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come out with a new mantra -- Make in India, which could bring all the leading global players to invest in India.
However, his mission could be derailed even before it comes on track, if the plaguing issues and flawed policies on Special Economic Zones (SEZ), which are the potential enclosures for bringing in huge investments and the magic wand to create employment opportunities, are not fixed soon.
While the foreign investors (as well as the domestic players) are at liberty to invest on various projects outside the SEZ parameters also, ideally SEZs are the location, which give more guarantee to their investments due to relaxation in otherwise cumbersome procedures.
Though SEZ, as concept of growth, is promoted by the Union Government’s Commerce Ministry, role of state governments in land acquisition, providing uninterrupted power supply and better connectivity to ports and airports, entangles the whole equilibrium of progress.
While Tamil Nadu is seen as a success story in promoting SEZs for years due to its conducive atmosphere, the latest developments, where Nokia (manufacturer of mobile phones) has already shut down its production and another big Foxconn (manufacturer of mobile phone parts) planning to shut shop soon from Sriperumbudur SEZ, are going to raise several questions about the very basis of SEZ and its functioning in the minds of potential investors sitting in the different parts of the globe.

What is SEZ:

Considering the need to enhance foreign investment and promote exports from the country and to realize the need that level playing field must be made available to the domestic enterprises and manufacturers to be competitive globally, the Government of India in April 2003, as a part of the EXIM policy, announced the introduction of Special Economic Zones policy in the country deemed to be foreign territory for the purposes of trade operations, duties and tariffs.
To provide an internationally competitive and hassle free environment for exports, units were allowed be set up in SEZ for manufacture of goods and rendering of services. All the import/export operations of the SEZ units are on self-certification basis.
Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in India are hubs of economic growth and activity, where the Govt’s inspirational mission of MAKE in INDIA can be realised. The concept of SEZ was put in place in 2003, when the seven Export Processing Zones set up by Government of India across the country were converted into Special Economic Zones.
Primary objective of the SEZs has been to be the harbinger of growth which is intended to be achieved by enhancing exports, attracting fresh investment and generating employment. Over the years, these objectives have been significantly realised and the potential for further growth and investment is enormous.

Commerce Ministry’s Roadshow:

With a view to promote and disseminate the role of SEZs in building Indian Economy, the Ministry of Commerce is embarked on a road-show. As part of the road-show, Development Commissioner had organized meetings at Hosur and Chennai, which were turned out to be eye-opener for many potential investors as well as to the visitors. Speaking at the function, Mr A K Choudhary, Development Commissioner, MEPZ SEZ, said that the Ministry has planned to organise these road-shows at different places mainly to bridge the communication gap about the policies  (on SEZs)and its implications among the investors as well as public.

55% land bank of SEZs in Tamil Nadu lying vacant:

Around 50-55% of the land available in the 36 operational Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Tamil Nadu is lying vacant owing to various reasons including the recent economic slowdown.
During a roadshow organised by the Tamil Nadu Association of SEZ Infrastructure Developers (TASID) and the Export Promotion Council for EOUs & SEZs (EPCES) in Chennai to promote the SEZs and the Prime Minister’s Make in India mission recently, Mr A K Choudhary, Development Commissioner, MEPZ SEZ, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, admitted that out of the 56 notified SEZ in Tamil Nadu, around 36 are functional and operational, in which almost 50-55% of the land bank is vacant. In other words, it shows the clear disconnect in policy and practical promotion of SEZs.
He also said that the concept of Free Trade Warehousing Zones (FTWZ), which is yet to find many takers in India, has turned out to be success stories in various countries, including United Arab Emirates.

SEZs in China:

China’s government first set up SEZs in the late 1970s in Southeastern China, with an eye on the compatriots in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
The most successful was Shenzhen, which back then was a village on the border of Hong Kong’s New Territories and now is a booming city that’s home to high-tech leaders like Huawei and ZTE. Of the important five SEZs in China, Shenshen, Shantou and Zhuhai are in Guangdong Province adjoining Hong Kong. Fourth, Xiamen is in Fujian Province and nearer Taiwan.

SEZs in Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu is one of the leaders in the SEZ movement with active public, private, or joint sector participation. The state has a total no of 56 notified SEZ out of which 36 are functional & operational. The state ranks first in the number of notified and operational SEZs in the country. The vibrancy for investment and industry in Tamil Nadu led to investment in the electronics, automobile and the flourishing Service sectors.
The GST Corridor, The Banagalore –Sriperumpudur corridor, the OMR stretch and the Oragadam region have major SEZs, which have impacted the economy and the lives of the people in the area positively.
MEPZ-SEZ, originally set up as an Export Processing Zone in the year 1984 and later converted into an SEZ in the year 2003, has been on the forefront of realising the vision of a vibrant and self-reliant India by nurturing industrial growth, generating employment and boosting foreign exchange reserves.
Apart from MEPZ-SEZ-which is a government run SEZ, there are around 35 privately developed fully functional SEZs (Special Economic Zones) within the state of Tamil Nadu, each having numerous manufacturing and service exporting units. The SEZs within Tamil Nadu have big domestic investors like Mahindra, L&T, Sterlite, Infosys, CTS, TCS, MARG, Foxconn, Hexaware, Syntel etc and international investors like Dell, Timken, Robert Bosch, Sanmina and others.
The state government is also an active player in the sector and SIPCOT & ELOCOT have promoted the maximum number of zones within the state.

Performance of SEZs in Tamil Nadu:

MEPZ-SEZ and the other Private SEZs under the jurisdiction of the Zonal Development Commissioner, MEPZ-SEZ has witnessed exponential growth in all areas despite the global gloom in business. The numbers of operational Special Economic Zones have gone up from 28 in 2010-11 to 36 as on date in 2013-14 and the numbers of SEZ Units have gone up from 201 to 445 in the corresponding period. Similarly, investments in the SEZs in this zone have gone up from Rs.5500 Crores to Rs.36,506 Crores in the past four years. While the SEZs in the region employed 86,536 people in 2010-11, the employment went up to 2,68,405 in the year 2013-14.
Physical Exports out of the country from the SEZs have grown by 95% in the past 4 years i.e from Rs. 36124 crores in 2009-10 to Rs. 70627 crores in 2013-14) and the FDI by more than 30 %.
The SEZs located within Tamil Nadu have all put together have an export turnover of around Rs.79,556/- Crores during the financial year 2013-2014. The employment generated from all the SEZs put together is to the extent of 2.68 lakhs.
Thus SEZs in the state have not only been core centers for earning foreign exchange , but also have created huge employment avenues for both the unorganized sector and the educated professionals.

Need of the hour:

While there in no doubt that SEZs are the real growth engines of Indian economy, poor marketing about the concept among the potential investors has put question marks over the very viability of such projects in the country. However, after the Prime Minister’s mission – MAKE IN INDIA, there are expectations that SEZs would attract huge investments in coming years.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Setup welfare board to secure freight transport drivers’ future: Trade Union leader


Port Wings News Network:

The Union Government in consultation with the state governments should set up a “Welfare Board” for the benefit of freight transport drivers, Mr K Asai Thambi, secretary of a reputed trade union in Chennai and one of the well-known voices for the voiceless drivers and cleaners working with container trailers and heavy vehicles in Chennai Port, has said.

In an interview to Port Wings, Mr Asai Thambi said, “To secure the future of lakhs of insecure freight transport drivers, the Union Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi should take a call soon on setting up a welfare board for drivers, which would attract more and more to the driving job.
In a freewheeling chat with Port Wings, he described the current status of freight transport drivers, their reluctance to go on inter-state long drives and steps needed to create more hands behind wheels.

Q. Tell us about the freight transport industry?

Mr Asai Thambi: “Freight transport industry is the backbone of two-trillion USD value Indian economy and the drivers, who transport goods and other commodities worth crores of rupees everyday from one corner to the other in the country, are no less than the real backbone of overall logistics system. According to a report prepared by KPMG‐CII, which estimated that by 2015 India will need five million truck drivers, whereas currently the road freight segment has only three million skilled truck drivers. The main reason for fading interest among the wannabe truck drivers is the insecurity for the job.”

Q. Tell us about the current status of truck drivers working in port sector?

AT: “The condition of drivers and cleaners working in container trailers is pitiable. If you take the example of Chennai Port, no driver wants to work here as they endure four or five days in a queue outside the port to deliver an export container. Under such circumstances, the drivers behind the trailers lose their sleep and their family life goes for a toss. So, the drivers prefer to work where they get some relief despite low wages.”

Q. In your view, what are the main reasons for shortage of truck drivers in the country? 

AT: “In the early 1980s, when there were not many options for the less-educated youngsters from villages and towns beyond agriculture fields, many of them preferred to driver job since it fetched good money for their families. However, the scenario changed dramatically in the late 1990s, when the globalization brought in new avenues for earnings to all sectors. Since the last two decades, number of drivers in freight transport sector is in declining mode. Moreover, insecurity to the job also aided to the decline and the youngsters in last two decades prefer to work in secured job eventhough with less salary rather than sitting behind wheels.”

Q. Are drivers now transporting goods on highways get proper on-road facilities?

AT: Drivers moving goods through national highways often rue that there are no facilities like rest rooms for them for relaxation after long drives. NHAI should build rest room-cum-refresh centres on highways for long-distance drivers (on par with dhabas).

Q. What could be done to bring in more hands in freight transport sector?

AT: “Due to changed mindset, educated youth of this generation never like to take truck driver job as a permanent profession anymore. It is mainly due to the lurking insecurity in the job. They don’t get much income and they are at the mercy of vehicle owners. If they meet with an accident, there is nobody to take care of the driver or his family. It becomes difficult if the family has no other source of income they will be forced on to the streets.  It is time for those heavy vehicle manufacturing companies like Ashok Leyland, TATA, Mahindra, BharatBenz, Volvo and Eicher, who spent crores of rupees for selling their products, should set up a common driver training facility. In fact, such programme by these companies could be taken up under corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.”

Q. What role, both Centre and State governments can play to improve drivers tally in the country?

AT: In my view, both the Centre and state governments have huge roles to play to alleviate drivers’ shortage. If the Union Government comes out with a “Welfare Board” for truck drivers and doles out long-term measurers for their social security, monthly pension, retirement benefits, financial assistance for medical treatment and huge sum as insurance in case of death, I am pretty sure that it would definitely attract many. Equally, the state governments too have huge role in convincing the youngsters to take up the steering.  

In short, I wish to record that the drivers of freight transport sector should become the real drivers of Indian economy and for achieving it, both the Union Government and state governments have a primary duty to alleviate the existing insecurity in the job.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Port Wings Editorial: Time for PM Modi to keep distance from corporates


The recent episode of Public Sector bank --the State Bank of India (SBI) sanctioning $1 billion loan to Adani Group’s coal project in Australia has opened the Pandora’s Box for the BJP’s top-rung leaders who are very busy in convincing the citizens that it was a genuine process.

Even though the SBI’s top official defended the decision and categorically said that the public sector bank followed due process in granting the huge sum as loan, the closeness between Adani Group’s Chairman Gautam Adani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has seen among the anti-Modi group as the real pressure for such sanctioning.

Well nobody knows what had transpired between the SBI management and the Adani Group, after which the deal was eventually sealed, political parties, who are dead against the BJP and its ideologies, claim that it was a tacit support by the Prime Minister for the corporate, which helped it.

Since the day when the Prime Minister announced that SBI is granting the loan to Adani, the avalanche of questions flooded in several forums, including the social media and the Parliament has literally drenched both the Adani Group and Narendra Modi in negative publicity.

Though political parties termed it as crony capitalism, online forums went a step ahead and congratulated the State Bank of India for making a new entry into its always growing Non Performing Assets (NPA).

While no one dared to even pin point or raise a finger of suspicion on Prime Minister Modi about the SBI Loan to Adani, it is time for the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to draw a “Lakshman Rekha” where he can keep off the direct reach of corporate with him.

In otherwords, if the Prime Minister continues his association with selected corporates of the country, it would become very easy for the anti-group to paint the NDA as a government run by corporates.

Modi must understand that India’s two ex-Prime Ministers lost their seats after showing their close links with corporates. And the country doesn’t want to see Mr Modi in that list.

Shipping Ministry should standardize the agency service fees:  Arul Joseph


Port Wings News Network:

The Ministry of Shipping should standardize the agency service fees to be same in all the major and non major ports in the Indian sub continent, Mr Arul A. Joseph, Managing Director of Unicorn Maritimes (India) Pvt. Ltd (Unicorn Group), has said.

In an exclusive interview to Port Wings after receiving the prestigious "Jewel of India" award for his outstanding achievements in the shipping industry, Mr Arul Joseph, said, “Since this will enhance the Indian ship agents’ presence in the world market and as such the Indian ship agents’ services is in no way inferior to the services rendered by the overseas counterparts who are been paid heavily for the services as ship agents.”

Excerpts of the interview…

Q: Congratulations on receiving the prestigious award. Could you tell us about your shipping background?
Mr Arul A. Joseph: Thank you gentlemen, let me begin by saying that I was graduated from Loyola College in Andhra Pradesh. Later I joined the sea in 1975 starting sea career from the scratch and by 1981, I reached zenith. After which I quit sea service since I had successfully completed all family obligations.
In 1981, I started Unicorn Maritimes (India) Private Limited ( with one table and chair. Today, I have succeeded in creating an internationally recognized brand Unicorn, catering to the needs of worldwide clients in the field of ship agency, chartering and brokering with main focus on the dry bulk cargoes.

Q: Tell us about the “Jewel of India” award?
AAJ: On the 15th of November, the Indian Solidarity Council at New Delhi had invited me to participate in the seminar on economic and education development held in the auditorium of the Indian Society of International Law. After which, the ISC had honoured me with the “Jewel of India” award for outstanding achievements in the shipping industry. The award carried gold medal, citation, merit certificate and a plaque. It was a great honour to receive this award from eminent personalities of India like Dr Bhishma Narayan Singh (Former Cabinet Minister and Governor of Tamil Nadu), Dr G. V. G. Krishnamurthy (Ex Chief Election Commissioner), Justice O. P. Varma (Former Governor of Punjab and Chief Justice of Kerala), Mr Joginder Singh (Former Chief of CBI), Mr O. P. Saxena (President of All India Lawyers’ Forum) and Dr N.S.N. Babu (Secretary-General, Indian Solidarity Council).
I am pleased to inform that the ISC gives these awards annually to eminent personalities like teachers, social workers, doctors, scholars etc for their outstanding services to the community in which they are serving.
I am delighted to bring to your notice that this is the first time that shipping fraternity has been considered. And out of the awardees who represents every corner of the country, only a few were rewarded with the Jewel of India award, gold medal and me, representing the shipping industry was the first one to be called on the stage to receive the prestigious award amongst the prestigious gathering.

Q. What is your message to the fraternity?
AAJ: It is time to recall to the Shipping Ministry that the ship agents fraternity is a professionally reputed service oriented sector.  And that the Ministry of Shipping should recognize their service. Since most of us as ship agents do not stop just entering and clearing the ships at ports but are one of the main source of marketing in the port sector and solely responsible for all the inward revenues in millions of dollars to the ports and the country.
After this juncture, the ship agents’ fraternity would be grateful to the Ministry if they consider our following requests.
  1.  The ship agents’ services should be recognized by the Ministry of Shipping as published in United Nations (UNCTAD) Minimum Standard For Shipping Agents, 1988.
  2. All the heavy documentations followed by the Customs during the vessel’s entry and clearances (including the TDS documentations) should be abolished and brought online, even the port clearance should be online in par with all the leading ports in the world.
  3. Most importantly, the Ministry of Shipping should standardize the agency service fees to be same in all the major and non major ports in the Indian sub continent.  Since this will enhance the Indian ship agents’ presence in the world market and as such the Indian ship agents’ services is in no way inferior to the services rendered by the overseas counterparts who are been paid heavily for the services as ship agents. Bound by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) Act, neither the ship agents association nor by individual MNC ship agent firm cannot impose any agency service fee schedule which has now become great advantage to the foreign ship owner who is bargaining with the Indian ship agents on the agency service fee. The principals expect a world class service but bargain to pay world-class fee as they are doing to the overseas counterparts.
In the event, the MoS standardize this ship agents’ service fee, the ship agents’ fraternity would serve their principals with dignity. And moreover, it should be highlighted that by the virtue of such standardization process, the Government of India will be in a position to reap heavy income in the form of service tax whilst reducing the procedures for filing service tax with the tax authorities.

Q. Tell us about your view on Chennai Port- Maduravoyal Elevated Expressway?
AAJ: With regards to the Chennai Port- Maduravoyal Elevated Expressway, it is a very needy and essential project for not only to Chennai Port, but for the entire state. The project would reduce the road congestion to the maximum.

Q. What is the importance of EMRIP for both Chennai and Kamarajar ports?
AAJ: As you are aware, EMRIP is also a vital project between Kamarajar Pot and Chennai Port. But, I fear that by the time the EMRIP comes into full reality, it may not serve the purpose for which it was intended. Since the cargo volumes are increasing day by day thus demanding more roads for transportation.

Q. What is your take on RamSethu Project?
AAJ: RamSethu is also a vital project which you all know has been stopped for reasons known to the nation. Now that the alternative is being sought by the new dynamic government to pave way via Pamban is applaudable. Subject to condition that the depths for suitable draught have to be considered between two narrow coral islands – Pullivasi and Kurusadai which is always filled with silted sand.

Q. Tell us about the government’s ambitious Sagarmala project?
AAJ: Sagarmala was the dream project of our ex Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who revolutionized the road transport system by creating the Golden Quadrilateral. India has been blessed by natural coastline extending to 7517 km precisely with 11 major ports and a corporate major port. The need of the hour is for the Ministry of Shipping to identify all the mid-stream ports along the coastline and announce to the general public which will encourage the MNCs to take advantage and set shop along the coastline.
  At this point of time, the mega vessels could be handled at stream or anchorage wherein the draught are naturally available at easily navigable distances from the shore. Thus, saving the Ministry of Shipping /users from dredging, building big ports and berths engaging heavy harbor crafts.
The only requirement would be a point for pilot contact and a lighthouse or a floating beacon. Thus encouraging the user who would need only to invest on floating cranes and mechanical barges, while building a small barge jetty on shore. This will start fetching revenue to the government by way of anchorage dues from a lighterage and cargo handling dues etc.,
For the user, it would be advantageous since his import would directly go to his industry set on the shore. Thus making way forming industrial clusters, employment opportunities and development on the coastal and the fishing sectors.

Q. Tell us about the growth of coastal shipping?
AAJ: Having highlighted the importance of Sagarmala, our government would start fetching revenue by handling vessel as outer anchorage at stream. Such incomes could be safely diverted for developing the coastal waterways, in the form of dredging, building berth etc.
Needless to mention coastal waterways and inland waterways can make a great change to our country. And, this has already been widely discussed by eminent people in various important forums.  
In conclusion, its my pleasure to bring to the notice of the fraternity that we at CHENSAA are always available 24X7 365 days to share with the Ministry of Shipping all our expertise and ideas in the development of the shipping sector of our nation.
Once again, I am happy to the Ministry of Shipping for having recognized our fraternity and proud to dedicate this award to the entire shipping fraternity.

Monday, November 24, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Good days are ahead for road & port projects in Tamil Nadu: Pon Radhakrishnan


 “For the sake of speeding up pending projects in the state, I am ready to meet anybody in Tamil Nadu government,” Mr Radhakrishnan.

Port Wings News Network:

I am fully confident that the Tamil Nadu government will extend its support for early completion of Union Government supported road projects in the state, new Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping Mr Pon Radhakrishnan has said.
In an exclusive interview to Port Wings, Mr Radhakrishnan said, “When I met and interacted with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Mr O Paneerselvam at Secretariat recently, got the sense that state government too understood the importance of Ennore Manali Road Improvement Project (EMRIP) and Chennai Port-Maduravoyal Elevated Expressway, which would not only help the Chennai Port but also the whole Chennai City.”
It is worth recalling here that Port Wings, in its last issue, had carried a news article on Mr Radhakrishnan’s ground-breaking meeting with the Chief Minister Paneerselvam and its possible impact on Centre’s road connectivity projects in the state.
Despite his busy schedule, the Minister spoke to Port Wings on various issues pertaining to his ministry and elaborated his vision for development.


On a question about EMRIP and Chennai Port-Maduravoyal Elevated Expressway’s future, Mr Radhakrishnan said, “Both the projects are very important road connectivity projects for Chennai Port as well as to the city. During my meeting with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister recently, I emphasized about the importance of early completion of both the projects. During the course of interaction, I got a sense of feeling that they also understood the need for such projects and I am fully confident that good times are ahead for those projects.”
Reacting to a query about implication on Chennai Port’s future if these projects remains pending for longtime, Mr Radhakrishnan said, “If these projects, especially the Elevated Expressway, remains pending for long time, it will not augur well for Chennai Port’s future. While the Port’s future will be in peril, whole Chennai City, which is growing rapidly, will also face huge congestion problems in coming years.  Once the Elevated Expressway is completed, it will give an opportunity to lessen traffic on city’s arterial roads.”
“There is a misconception in certain section that the Centre’s projects (be it ports or roads) would create revenue source for the Union government alone. That is wrong. All those projects are primarily meant to create infrastructure to support sustained development of state’s various sectors including manufacturing and logistics,” Mr Radhakrishnan said.  


On a question about status of NHAI projects, Mr Radhakrishnan, who is also the MoS for Road Transport & National Highways, said, “During the meeting with the Chief Minister, I also discussed about acquisition of lands for some of the NHAI projects, which are stuck only due to problems in land acquisitions .”


Expressing his views on the importance of state and Centre’s partnership, Mr Radhakrishnan said, “Memorandum of Understanding is a concept that is mainly conceived to bring the stakeholders on a platform to move on progressive path. However, there is memorandum between parties sans understanding. And without any understanding, treading on progress path is difficult. Moreover, the delay in completing infrastructure projects not only costs to the exchequer, but also halts the country’s progress. ”
 “For the sake of speeding up pending projects in the state, I am ready to meet anybody in Tamil Nadu government,” added Mr Radhakrishnan.


On a question about the development of Colachel Port, Mr Radhakrishnan said, “The Colachel Port, located at Kanyakumari District in Tamil Nadu, is close to the international shipping route and has enough draft for establishing an international standard port with all modern facilities.”
“We have requested the Tamil Nadu government, who is maintaining it through its maritime board, to handover the minor port to Centre for developing an ultra-modern mega port. I also instructed the VOC Port Trust to complete a detailed project report (DPR) at the earliest. Since I am also from the same district, would like to see a bustling port at Colachel soon.” Mr Radhakrishnan added.
It may be noted that a fully developed Colachel Port would not only pave way for economic growth of Southern Tamil Nadu as well as parts of Kerala through industrial clusters, but also help to generate job opportunity for thousands.


On a question about support for Tirupur knitwear exporters, Mr Radhakrishnan said, “Tirupur Exporters Association team led by its president Mr A Sakthivel met me in New Delhi and aired their grievances including the issue of effluent treatment and shortage of labours. I suggested them to start knitwear exporting clusters in Ramnad District, where they can get vast tracts of land for setting up factories, cheap labour and port facility is also located in short distance at Tuticorin. They promised me to respond positively.”
“Developing such facilities in Ramnad district would not only arrest the exodus of locals seeking greener pastures in Tirupur or Coimbatore, but also help the economic growth of least developed district in Tamil Nadu,” Mr Radhakrishnan added.