Six months after gaining parliamentary support for a new law to convert the top 11 port trusts into authorities, the Center has yet to complete the structural overhaul of state-owned ports.
The Large Port Authority Law of 2021 was passed by Parliament on February 10 and notified to the Official Gazette on February 18 after being promulgated by the President.
The delay in finalizing the law enforcement rules has delayed the conversion, according to official sources. The draft rules were released on April 7 to gather comments / opinions from the general public, stakeholders and unions / federations.
Sources in the port trusts say the second wave of the pandemic has slowed the finalization of the rules. In addition, there was a change of guard at the Ministry of Ports, Navigation and Waterways in July following a cabinet reshuffle, in which Sarbananda Sonowal was appointed Union Minister instead. by Mansukh Mandaviya.
“The rules for implementing this new law have yet to be finalized,” said an official at one of the major port trusts.
The new law will facilitate the pricing of services provided by government-owned port authorities as well as public-private partnership (PPP) operators in these so-called major ports to help them compete with private ports which are free to set their own tariffs.
Currently, prices for services provided by port trusts and PPP operators are set by the Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP). The new law aims to grant more autonomy and flexibility to large ports and to professionalize their governance for faster decision-making and help them compete with private ports.
An Arbitration Council (without power to set tariffs) will be set up under the new law to supervise the functions performed by the TAMP arising from the tariff guidelines of 2005, 2008, 2013, 2018 and 2019 and the tariff decrees issued. by this authority.
The Arbitration Council will be responsible for receiving and ruling on any litigation or dispute or claims relating to the rights and obligations of major port authorities and PPP operators or captive users of dedicated berths under their concession agreements. , and to make orders after reviewing and hearing all parties involved in the dispute.
The council will also assess and review PPP projects constrained by the central government or the port authority council, and propose measures to revive these projects.
It will examine complaints received from port users against the services and conditions of service provided by large ports or private operators operating in large ports, and will pass the necessary orders after hearing the parties concerned.
The new law will help these ports to obtain additional loans / capital from Indian and foreign lenders.
Ports will also be empowered to establish their own master plan for areas located within their port boundary to the exclusion of any state or local regulations.
This would mean that a port authority is not required to obtain permission from a municipal or local authority to undertake development projects.
“The ports are surrounded by municipalities. How can they allow the port authorities to do what they want. It will be challenged in court, ”said a port industry official.