India’s Port of Jawaharlal Nehru issued a decree requiring ship agents to arrange for mooring services for vessels calling at the country’s largest container gateway.
“With approval from the competent authority, it has been decided that effective April 1, the services of mooring crew for berthing, un-berthing and shifting of vessels will not be provided by the port authority,” port management said.
Port officials attributed the decision to an acute shortage of trained staff for such operations, affecting vessel-turnaround schedules. According to them, the management had earlier called for privatization of mooring gangs, but shipping lines and agents, under the aegis of their local bodies, thwarted the process.
The west coast hub agreed to allow a rebate in pilotage/towage fees, levied on users as part of marine dues.
The move prompted strong protests from the Mumbai-Nhava Sheva Ship Agents’ Association, representing the entire ship agents’ community at the ports of Jawaharlal Nehru (Nhava Sheva) and Mumbai.
“Mooring of vessels is one of the fundamental functional responsibilities of any port or terminal and must be carried out by the port authority/terminal operator,” the association said in a communique to Nehru.
“The process of privatization should not be carried out in a piecemeal manner. There should be an organized effort for the complete privatization of pilotage, tugs and mooring gangs together; otherwise it would lead to numerous operational problems,” shipping agents said.
They said agents lack the required expertise and experience in handling mooring of ships as it was never in their operational ambit at Indian ports. “Additionally, we, as agents, are not covered by insurance for this activity, in the eventuality of an accident,” the group said.
Agents requested the port authority reconsider its decision in the overall interest of users and the trade.
Nehru, which moves nearly 60 percent of India’s total containerized traffic, handles about 2,500 ship calls a year. Its container throughput for fiscal 2008-09 was 3.95 million 20-foot equivalent units, and 3 million TEUs for the first three quarters of 2009-10. Total cargo volume during the April-January period surged to 50 million tons from 48 million tons a year earlier.