Another accident holds up operations at JNPT; losses mount

Another accident holds up operations at JNPT; losses mount

Mumbai: Another accident at India’s largest container port, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), has held up ship movement at one of its six berths for the past 10 days and caused losses amounting to crores of rupees.

Lahore Express, a ship owned by Hapag-Lloyd AG, suspended operations on 6 September after two 20ft containers fell on its fuel tank while being hauled out and contaminated other containers. JNPT handles at least 60% of India’s container traffic.

The accident occurred because the port operator mistook the size of the containers to be 40ft each while lifting them, representatives of shipping lines at JNPT said.

The operator locked the four sides of the containers with a crane, but they fell as the middle part was not locked.

“This ruptured the oil tank and contaminated the remaining containers on the vessel. Though there was no oil spill externally, the master refused to sail (saying) the ship was not seaworthy," said a representative of a foreign shipping line awaiting its berth at the port. He did not want to be named.

N.N. Kumar, deputy chairman of JNPT, called the accident a routine problem. “These kinds of things happen in port operations. The ship will sail out once it is seaworthy," he said, without elaborating.

Another executive said an internal inquiry is being initiated and Lahore Express is likely to sail out on 15 September.

“Nowhere in the world a vessel would be allowed to stay alongside more than 24 hours. The port had to bow down to the pressure of master of the vessel since it has no technical expertise or extra space to move out the vessels for possible repairs," a third official said.

These two officials spoke on condition of anonymity. Mint could not reach the Indian arm of Hapag-Lloyd for comment.

The port would have lost at least $270,000 ( 1.25 crore) in vessel-related charges and 7.2 crore in cargo-related charges due to the accident, two maritime consultants with shipping companies said, asking not to be named.

In addition, 10 ships are waiting outside the port for their turn to unload and load cargo.

“Monsoon plays havoc at the port, creating congestion. This (accident) has added to the container backlog. At least 45,595 20ft containers are piled up at the yards," said one of the consultants.

There was a similar accident in March, when a crane smashed into a vessel while moving. “Though inquiries were there, no one was charge-sheeted," the first JNPT executive said.

On 7 August, operations at JNPT and neighbouring Mumbai Port Trust (MPT) were suspended for more than a week after a collision between MSC Chitra, a container ship operated by Mediterranean Shipping Co. SA, and MV Khalijia, a commodity carrier owned by Gulf Rocks Co.

Some containers fell into the shipping channel used by both JNPT and MPT, forcing operations to be suspended and causing losses worth several crores of rupees to both ports.

Bhushan N. Patil, labour trustee at JNPT and general secretary of Nhava-Sheva Bandar Kamgar Sanghatana, admitted this was not first accident at the port. “The management is investigating into this accident," Patil said.

Lahore Express can carry 4,253 20ft containers and is registered in Hong Kong, according to Hapag-Lloyd’s website.