Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Paradip, Sep 19:
Even as the stand-off between aithorities of the Paradip Port Trust (PPT) in Odisha and Paradip Port Stevedores’ Association and other organisations backing its demands continued, cargo loading and unloading work at the port, which had come to a grinding halt since last Wednesday, began today with Seaways Shipping & Logistics Pvt Ltd (SSLPL), an Andhra Pradesh based stevedoring firm, carrying out unloading of hard coking coal from a JSPL vessel named MV HARM that had berthed at the port since last Wednesday.
Waking up to the gravity of the situation rather late in the day, the Odisha government today despatched chief secretary GC Pati to hold talks with the contending parties in a bid to find a way out of the stalemate.
Pati arrived at Paradip Port today and held discussions with PPT chairman M T Krishna Babu at the administrative building of the port urging him to keep a close watch on the situation in the port. The chief secretary issued strict instructions to the district administration to maintain law and order, sources privy to the talks revealed.
Earlier in the day, SSLPL entered the port premises with 25 dumpers hired from outside to begin unloading of coal from the vessel MV HARM berthed at CQ-1 berth of the port amid heavy security arrangements. A total of 22 platoons of policemen and CISF personnel have been deployed at the port premises to avert any untoward incident.
But palpable tension prevailed in the area with the Dumper Owners’ Association and Paradeep Port Stevedores’ Association continuing with their stir protesting against the alleged arbitrary decision of port chairman M T Krishna Babu to allow stevedoring work to SSPL, which they allege is against the principles earlier agreed to.
More than 5,000 members of as many as 10 port organizations, including the Paradip Port Stevedores Association (PPSA), Dumper Association and Heavy Equipment Association held a rally in the port town on Friday and submitted a memorandum to the Additional District Magistrate (ADM) Ramakrushna Sahu castigating PPT chairman M T Krishna Babu for promoting non-Odia operators in cargo handling and other port activities.
Though the district administration made efforts on Friday to end the deadlock, there was no breakthrough with the organizations threatening to further intensify their stir.
Trouble in the port started after SSLPL was given the existing cargo handling work of Sahara Engineering, a member of the PPSA. A vessel MV HARM loaded with 86,000 tonnes of hard coking coal berthed at the port on Wednesday and the stevedoring and transportation work was handed to the SSLPL.
The PPSA opposed the move stating that it was in gross violation of a collective decision taken at a meeting presided over by the District Collector on August 14. It argues that it had been decided at the meeting that all stakeholders will meet for an amicable solution before the arrival of the next vessel to be handled by SSLPL.
The PPSA and SSLPL are at loggerheads over the latter’s membership in Carrying and Forwarding Association. The matter is sub judice in the High Court. The PPSA has demanded withdrawal of the case for membership of Carrying and Forwarding Association.
Port chairman Krishna Babu, however, has said that all stevedores, whether members of the association or not, can operate in a national port. There is no law to prevent a licensed stevedore from operating. The association is only an informal arrangement and has no recognition.
Babu also brushed aside allegations of promoting outsiders stating that only three stevedores out of 43 control 95 per cent cargo handling in the port. Importers and Exporters can engage their stevedoring and transporting agency as per rule and added that the port would serve show cause notice to stevedoring agencies which are not cooperating.