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Sunday, February 11, 2007

FCI puts Tuticorin Port in dock

The Food Corporation of India, Thoothukudi, recently sought diversion of a ship carrying wheat imports for it to the Chennai Port from the Tuticorin Port. The communication had some accusing fingers pointed at the TPT.

In his message to the FCI Executive Director (South), the Assistant General Manager of the corporation recommended diversion of the vessel mv YICK WING from Tuticorin Port to Chennai Port “...due to the active North East Monsoon, non-availability of required covered accommodation at Tuticorin Port, including a transit shed, and the non-cooperation of the port trust authorities to FCI.”

It was also stated that the TPT was adamant on imposing Penal Berth Hire charges on the FCI stevedoring contractor, though the vessel was discharged within the ‘free time’.

The communication was forwarded to the FCI headquarters in New Delhi with some additions.

The Executive Director, in his message, stated that the TPT lacked covered storage facilities and added: “The vessel can be unloaded in Chennai Port without any difficulty as we are getting the required help and cooperation from the Chennai Port Trust authorities.”

These messages from the FCI officials prompted the Tenkasi MP, M Appadurai, to write to the Union Minister for Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution. Later, the MP too sought an order to divert the vessel to the Chennai Port, “considering the ground realities”.

Meanwhile, M/s Vicnivaas, a stevedoring agency, also came out complaining of the lack of storage facilities at the Tuticorin Port. According to sources in the company, the TPT management recently dismantled a shed that was on the land the company had taken on lease but failed to renew.

While the company defined the act as one borne out of personal enmity, the absence of the shed certainly did not help the TPT.

When this website's newspaper’s correspondent contacted TPT chairman N K Regupathy for his comments, he received a stock reply, “I am busy”.

However, a TPT official, requesting anonymity, told this website's newspaper that the letters by FCI-Thoothukudi and Tenkasi MP Appadurai had not come to the notice of the TPT authorities.

On the allegations about the lack of covered storage facilities at the port, the officer said the port had six godowns and two transit sheds that would be judiciously allotted among the private cargo handling agencies and the FCI.

Normally only about 20-30 percent of the storage space available at the port was in constant use, aided by prompt clearance of stored cargo. Nevertheless, this year a problem arose due to the bulk arrival of 6.21 lakh tonnes of wheat imported by the FCI during the last five months of 2006 as against the nil import of wheat during the same period the previous year.

The cargo took up 80 percent of the storage space and had not been cleared due to which TPT had to levy Penal Berth Hire on the stevedoring agency, explained the officer.

Commenting on the removal of the storage shed erected by Vicnivaas, the official clarified that it was only a temporary shed.

The structure was pulled down as the company’s licence period had expired and as per the port rules, while surrendering the land, the licensee should remove any temporary structure on it, the official said.

He, however, admitted that the FCI allegations should be given serious consideration as it could affect the business volume of Tuticorin port.

Source: New Ind Press

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