Shipping Ministry asks for more financial powers for ports

A high-level committee constituted by the shipping ministry has proposed more financial powers for the country’s 12 major port trusts to allow them to take decisions faster and function more like commercial organisations on a par with public sector enterprises.

The committee, comprising officials of the shipping ministry and representatives of port trusts, has recommended that board of por

Port trust

Port trust

t trusts be given full powers to execute contracts, take temporary loans, sanction works up toRs 200 crore and write off losses up to Rs 40 crore in a year. “It will expedite a lot of our future projects, for which we had to get the ministry’s approval.

This does not mean that the scrutiny of the projects will be compromised in any way,” said Ravi Parmar, chairman of Mumbai and Kandla Port Trusts.

At present, port trusts have to seek permission from the shipping ministry for projects over Rs 50 crore. The committee has also suggested enhancing the powers of port trusts chairmen to decide over legal and trade matters. “Decentralisation is a good thing with the caveat that port management be professionalised.

Powers should be delegated into the hands of competent people,” former shipping secretary K Mohandas said. The government also plans to provide training for port officers at Indian and international institutions to get “the required orientation.” A senior government official said, “Capacity building of officers is of immense importance. Higher level of port authority should deal with more important development issues rather than routine matters”.The new powers come with their own riders. Major ports would be required to prepare budgets in advance and get government approvals on the same. All investment decisions taken by the port trust have to be reported to the shipping ministry. “If major ports don’t adhere to financial discipline all such powers will be withdrawn,” a senior official said.

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