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CAG pulls up KoPT over port handling

Cites favouritism to unauthorised operators

Written by Indronil Roychowdhury | Kolkata | Published: August 12, 2013 12:38:14 am

The Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) has pulled up Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) citing irregularities and favouritism to unauthorised operators. This has resulted in huge loss of revenue for the country’s only riverine major port,which otherwise could have been a lifeline for the ailing dock system.

The CAG report of 2011-12 has pointed out that exporters and importers appointed private handling agents,who did most of the onshore handling at Haldia Dock Complex (HDC),the main cargo handling arm of the KoPT. The port had no control over this handling and a major share of

the port’s revenue from cargo handling related charges were carried away by private agencies without paying any royalty.

KoPT’s administrative officer Ramakant Burman,who blew the whistle against this irregularity,said this was a fact in all the major ports of the country. Stevedores,only supposed to carry out on board operations,carried out on shore operations too and took away the cargo handling charges for themselves. The Indian major ports handles more than 620 million tonnes (MT) of cargo every year and revenue of at least 200 MT goes to agencies like Ripley,EC Bose & Co,OSL,JM Bakshi,Bothra & Co,Roy & Chatterjee and others.

Every port is supposed to engage handling contractors under Section 42 of the Major Port Trust Act of 1963,wherein the contractor has to share revenue with the port. But none of the contractors have been engaged under this Act. Section 48 of the Major Port Trust Act calls for fixing handling charges by the tariff authority for major port (TAMP) but the contractors fix charges for themselves.

Average charges realised by such contractors are Rs 250 per tonne,which means there is drainage of Rs 5,000 crore every year from the system,Burman said.

Sitaram Yechury-headed parliamentary standing committee on ports and shipping has already taken cognizance of this fact and has given a report to the parliament on May 3,Kunal Ghosh,Trinamool MP and a member in the panel said.

Companies like Ripley,run by Trinamool biggie like Swapan Sadhan Bose and his son Srinjoy Bose,a Rajya Sabha MP,has only ‘handling agent licence’ for operations in Haldia and takes away Rs 450-500 crore revenue every year paying only an annual licence fee of Rs 5,450.

According to a Kolkata High Court order ‘handling agent licence’ has no legitimacy but the port authorities have allowed Ripley to do onshore operation,which makes 75 per cent of the port’s total operation,with such a license.

The CAG report pointed out that KoPT authorities favoured unauthorised agencies and in turn jeopardised mechanical and efficient operations,for which the port lost opportunities of handling 36.18 lakh tonnes more cargo and failed to earn Rs 87.68 crore worth of additional revenue in FY’12.

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