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Strike over toll tax may clog JNPT

October 05, 2005 10:07 IST

The Jawaharlal Nehru Port is once again headed for an indefinite strike. The three-hour negotiations between the port authorities and transporters failed on Tuesday and the transporters have announced a strike from Wednesday.

The transporters are demanding removal of the toll tax on National Highway 4B, which, the port authorities say, is beyond their jurisdiction. The container operators have been referred to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which holds 50 per cent equity in the Mumbai-JNPT Road Corporation.

Last week, a series of meetings between the JNPT authorities and the NHAI had ended in an impasse. The Maritime and Shipping Agents Association (MANSAA), though, has offered to reimburse the port authority to cover the toll tax loss.

Currently, the toll is collected by the Mumbai-based PBA Infrastructure, which was awarded the tender for Rs 41 crore (Rs 410 million). The one-way toll on NH-4B is pegged at Rs 130 and transporters complain that they have to pay Rs 230 per trip, and another Rs 230 if they have to drop off the empty container as the container yards are accessible only through NH-4B. The trucks cannot stay back as parking is allowed only in Kalamboli.

The port, which services most of northern and western India, handles around 2 million TEUs of cargo every year. Nearly 6,000 containers move in and out of the port daily.

However, since NH-4B was inaugurated in July this year, the container operators have been on the warpath over the toll. Their contention: "It is not fair to charge toll on an approach road to the port."

JNPT Chief Manager (Operations) RT Revankar said the port has appealed to the transporters to postpone the strike and continue negotiations. "We have assured the truck operators that we will take up the toll tax matter with the NHAI," Revankar said.

Nhava Sheva Container Operators Welfare Association (NSCOWA) members said the transporters wanted abolition of the toll tax levied by special purpose vehicle (SPV) created by JNPT, City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) and NHAI.

Last month too, the container operators had threatened a strike but had withdrawn upon assurances from the port authorities. The JNPT authorities had introduced a concessional pass for regular users. But this is not acceptable to the container operators who are demanding a total removal of the toll tax.

The strike will affect outward movement of cargo and movement between container freight stations at JNPT.

Tax Trouble

  • Transporters are protesting against the Rs 230 toll tax they have to pay per trip on the NH-4B.
  • JNPT authorities say the toll tax is beyond their jurisdiction.
  • A strike by the operators could stall the nearly 6,000 containers that transit from the port daily.
Gayatri Ramanathan in Mumbai