Port Trust Board (India)

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In all countries, it is recognised that there is need to control the foreshore and adjoining navigable waters. Roman Law is built on the concept that foreshore was in dominium populi, that is for all the people to use freely, under the authority of government. It is possible to establish a port only on foreshore because convenient land interface from sea is necessary for ships to moor for loading and unloading cargo. Foreshore belonged to all and therefore it should be freely accessible to all. Being open to all, competition would arise on use of foreshore land especially for establishing port. Naturally this calls for regulation of competition. Being unique public assets, foreshore land cannot be sold to any private entity. Experience world-wide suggests that the best form of regulating foreshore land without infringing on public rights is to vest foreshore and adjoining water spread to a board of trustees, where all interests – both private and public including local authority is represented. For more detailed discussion on the subject please see Dr Jean Grosdidier De Matons - IS A PUBLIC AUTHORITY STILL NECESSARY

In India seaports began to be established as statutory public trusts. The first such public trust was established for Bombay Port in 1873 following which, Bombay Port Trust Act in 1879 was enacted. Similar enactments followed, i.e., for Calcutta Port in 1890; and for Madras Port in 1905. In 1963 an Act enabling Central Government to declare a port as major Port and to vest foreshore and water spread of such a port to a board of trustees of that port was enacted. This is Major Port Trusts Act, 1963 All ports previously established under different Acts were brought within the purview of this newly enacted law.

Besides representatives of Central Government, the Act provides for representation in the board of trustees for various interests. Such interests include (1) labour employed in the port – a minimum of two representatives; (2 ship owners; (3) owners of sailing vessels; (4) shippers; and (5) such other interests, which in the opinion of the Central Government, ought to be represented on the Board.

In practical terms, autonomy for the board of trustees is nominal. Central Government has overriding powers. Until around the mid-1960s trade union leaders representing labour employed in the port used to be nominated though to a limited extent, to the board of trustees. Such labour used to be employed in large scale inside port area and on board the ships by ship-owners and cargo owners through their agencies operating in the port. The labour thus employed has casual employment relations with their employers. At the same time, cooperation of this labour was very essential for smooth functioning of the port. The Civil servants, who are permanent employees, covered under Central Government's conduct regulations were transferred to Port Trust to perform regulatory and service functions of ports when board of trustees was established. In course of time, by the early 1990s the representatives of permanent civil servants thus being employed under port trust as permanent employees began to be nominated as 'labour employed in the port'. Another development was introduction of new methods of cargo handling in ports. This development caused massive displacement of casual labour employed in the port by ship-owners ad cargo owners through their agencies. Notwithstanding this development, the nature of function of a port is such that it can only act as interface between ship and cargo.

Though maritime sector is not open to free trade under WTO (World Trade organisation) regime, global private interests have found their way to become partners in management of ports, mostly through securing award of concession by port trust to operate any specific facility, such as a container terminal. Well-known global container terminal operators and top-ranking global shipping conglomerates have thus secured licence to build and operate container terminals in major ports in India as well as in non-major ports, which come under legal jurisdiction of government of states in India.

This new development has set in motion to a system that is leading to compromise of public interest on foreshore land. Public trusts on foreshore land began to be established in 19th century with a view to divesting private interests from foreshore as a measure to safeguard public interests.

Servicing trade and providing shipping facility that is adequate to service trade are functions vested in the port trusts as per Major Port Trusts Act, 1963. However, focus of development of ports began to shift from trade to operators of ships especially for container cargo. For more detailed information on this aspect please see this presentation - SEAPORT DEVELOPMENT [1].

Unlike in dry bulk and liquid bulk (liquid cargo carried in ship's tank, example petroleum crude) shipments, where "parcel size" for carriage in a ship is influenced by decision of shipper, in the case of containerised cargo, no single trader or a few of them together would be able to move a parcel size of 10,000 or 18,000 TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) of own cargo in a ship. In this situation, container ship operators have been able to force development of ports to suit their huge-size ships. Exceptionally few ports having foresight and good planning have been able resist bearing cost of development of the port to suit huge-size container ships. These ports built facilities to suit medium size ships. The ports also began to induct ship-operators as partners in order that cost of development of port could be shared with ship-operator.

Currently there are 13 Major Ports in India. Excepting Ennore Port, all other ports are governed in accordance with Major Port Trusts Act, 1963. Each port has separate board of trustees appointed by the Central Government. Ennore Port is public limited company fully owned by the Central Government. India is a union of 28 states and 7 Union Territories. India is officially referred to as the Union of Republic of India. Though there is division of powers between the Central Government and government of a state, Major Ports come within purview of Central Government. The thirteen Major Ports are:

Mumbai (previously known as Bombay) - http://mumbaiport.gov.in/

Kolkatta (previously known as Calcutta) – http://www.kolkataporttrust.gov.in/

Chennai (Previously known as Madras) - http://www.chennaiport.gov.in/

Kandla - http://kandlaport.gov.in/

Jawaharlal Nehru Port (an adjacent port near Mumbai) - http://www.jnport.com/

Ennore (Near Chennai) - http://www.ennoreport.gov.in/

Mormugao (Goa) - http://www.mptgoa.com/

New Mangalore - http://www.newmangalore-port.com/

Cochin - http://www.cochinport.com/

V.O. Chidambaranar Port (previously known as Tuticorin) - http://www.vocport.gov.in/

Port Blair (In Andaman and Nicobar islands -

Visakhapatnam - http://www.vizagport.com/

Paradip - http://www.paradipport.gov.in/