Trade moving through India’s Port of Mumbai, which remained closed for a fifth day following the collision of two cargo ships at the main harbor, suffered yet another blow when the port authority issued a decree banning shipment of hazardous materials on safety grounds.
The ban, which will take effect Sept. 6, was triggered by a recent chlorine gas spill from one of the cylinders stored in the port docks that left more than 100 people hospitalized.
“It has been decided that dangerous goods listed under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code will not be accepted/handled at Mumbai Port,” the authority said.
Port officials said the movement of “relatively less” hazardous goods, which include sulphur and calcined petroleum coke, will be permitted on direct delivery basis, subject to a 15-day advance clearance.
“The list of cargo allowed to be shipped will be modified depending upon the degree of hazard and quantum,” they said.
The abrupt decision prompted strong protests from port users amid a broad consensus on safety needs.
“We are really concerned and perturbed that a decision is being taken not to permit handling of all hazardous cargo except some on direct delivery basis. With this, vessels in the pipeline carrying such cargo will be greatly affected, leading to serious difficulties and losses to the trade,” sad the Mumbai-Nhava Sheva Ship Agents’ Association.
The association, which represents the entire ship agents’ community at the port, suggested the authority hold an urgent meeting with all stakeholders to find a practical solution.
In a separate trade notice, the port authority announced plans to extend concessions on empty container storage charges for a further period of one year ending Sept. 2011 in a bid to boost its container throughput.
The discounted rates apply to containers handled at designated yards and container freight stations and not to units stored at the regular docks, it said.
Mumbai’s container volume for the April-July period surged 30 percent from a year earlier to 24,500 20-foot equivalent units.