Frequent strikes raise 'viability' challenges to ICTT

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Kochi, Nov 16 (UNI) Dubai Ports World has expressed concern about the ''viability'' of India's first International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT), coming up at Vallarpadam near here, in view of ''frequent strikes'' disrupting work at Cochin Port.

According to sources, Dubai Ports World Vice-President Ganesh Raj had written to Cochin Port Trust Chairman N Ramachandran, expressing concern about the viability of the ICTT in the present context of ''frequent strikes disrupting work at Cochin Port and the Rajiv Gandhi Container Terminal.'' The foundation stone for the Rs 3,000 crore ICTT, a major maritime project initiated by Union Government, was laid by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in February, 2005 and the Rajiv Gandhi Container Terminal was transferred to India Gateway Terminals Ltd (IGTL), a subsidiary of Dubai Ports World, which won the bid to operate the Vallarpadam ICTT.

According to sources, Mr Raj had said that IGTL had suffered 12 days of work loss during the past 20 months, on account of strikes.

Not only were the deadlines at the terminal disrupted, the strikes were also hampering the efforts to attract new business, it was pointed out.

Stating that the civil works for the Vallarpadam terminal were due to start shortly, Mr Raj is learnt to have said that issues pertaining to the smooth functioning of the terminal should be sorted out at the earliest.

While not commenting on the letter, IGTL General Manager Suresh Joseph told UNI, ''the frequent hartals in Kerala and labour action at Cochin Port are posing a challenging environment for us to work in.'' While categorically stating that there was no ''re-thinking'' on the Vallarpadam project on the part of Dubai Ports World, he said an ''assessment of the conditions'' was being undertaken.

He hoped the port authorities would take ''strong action'' to improve the working environment within the port and the Kerala government would pay more attention to improving the general business climate in the state.

The missive assumes significance in view of the lightning strike resorted to by the port employees paralysing its functioning for about two days, before being called off last evening.

UNI

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