SC asks Centre, states to resolve port expansion issue amicably

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 19 2012, 07:14am hrs
The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the shipping ministry, the governments of West Bengal and Orissa to amicably resolve the Kolkata Port limit expansion issue within two weeks.

The Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) and the West Bengal government have challenged the Orissa HCs judgement that scrapped the notifications issued by the ministry of shipping on October 22, 2010, altering the Kolkata Port limits and by the port trust on November 10 giving effect to the earlier one.

This unilateral decision of KoPT had snowballed into a major controversy with the Orissa government fighting against the Centre over the latters unilateral decision to expand the maritime zone of KoPT into its territory, saying such expansion would affect the seven upcoming minor ports proposed along the coast of north Orissa.

The Orissa government had earlier complained to the Centre that KoPTs move to locate its transloading facility near the coastal waters of Orissa will severely affect the business of Dhamara Port, a 50:50 joint venture of Tata Steel and L&T and also hamper the development of future ports. Dhamara Port has an exclusivity agreement with the Orissa government, according to which no other port facility can be created within 25 km.

A bench headed by Justice DK Jain asked Attorney general GE Vahanvati to work out a solution to resolve the differences by October 3. Even Dhamara Port has told the court that it is willing to act as a trans-shipment point and is open to the idea of working out an arrangement with KoPT in the larger interests of both the ports and the interest of the economic development of the entire hinterland.

The revised limits of KoPT extends more than 200 km south of Haldia into the Bay of Bengal, covering an area of 28,646 sq km, blocking the entire coast of North Orissa where seven ports were to come up. Last year, Keonjhar Nava Nirman Parishad, an NGO had filed a PIL in the HC seeking scrapping of the notifications. Later, Dhamara also became a party and Subarnarekha Port had also filed its case opposing KoPTs move, claiming that it had made substantial investments after an MoU was signed with Orissa in January 2008.

It stated that its rights were prejudiced by the illegal and arbitrary action on the part of the Centre and the port trust.