CAG pulls up KoPT over port-handling affairs

Aug 12 2013, 05:38 IST
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SummaryCAG has pulled up the Kolkata Port Trust for showing ‘favouritism’ to unauthorised operators.

The comptroller & auditor general (CAG) has pulled up the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) for showing ‘favouritism’ attitude to unauthorised operators. This has led to a huge loss of revenue for the country’s only riverine major port.

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 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,” the report said.

KoPT’s administrative officer Ramakant Burman, who blew the whistle against irregularity, said this was true for all major ports in the country.

According to the Indian Ports Association (IPA) data, the country’s major ports handled 546 million tonne in FY13, of which 160 mt have been manually handled by unauthorised agents and stevedores, who are not entitled to carry out onshore operations. Such agents haven’t shared any revenue with the ports so revenue of at least 160 mt has gone to the pockets of agencies handling without valid licence.

Every port is supposed to engage handling contractors under section 42 of the Major Port Trust Act, 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 a drainage of at least Rs 4,000 crore every year from the system, estimated Burman.

Sitaram Yechury-led parliamentary standing committee on transport tourism & culture has already submitted a report in Parliament on May 3 and the ministry has formed a committee under DG shipping to look into the issue, Trinamool MP and panel member Kunal Ghosh told FE. Companies like Ripley, run by Trinamool biggie like Swapan Sadhan Bose and his son Srinjoy Bose, a Rajya Sabha MP, have only ‘handling agent licence’ for operations in Haldia and take away R450-500-crore revenue every year paying only an annual licence fee of R5,450.

According to a Calcutta High Court order, ‘handling agent licence’ has no legitimacy, but port authorities allowed Ripley to do onshore operation

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