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Parliament Passes Landmark Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020

New Delhi:

Port Wings News Network:

Parliament on 10 February passed the Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020. Shri Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of State (I/C) for Ports, Shipping &Waterways moved the bill in Rajya Sabha and it was passed. Now, the Bill will go to the President of India for his assent.

With a view to promote the expansion of port infrastructure and facilitate trade and commerce, the Major Port Authorities Bill 2020 bill aims at decentralizing decision making and to infuse professionalism in governance of major ports. It imparts faster and transparent decision making benefiting the stakeholders and better project execution capability. The Bill is aimed at reorienting the governance model in central ports to landlord port model in line with the successful global practice. This will also help in bringing transparency in operations of Major Ports. This will empower the Major Ports to perform with greater efficiency on account of full autonomy in decision making and by modernizing the institutional framework of Major Ports.

The salient features of the Major Port Authorities Bill 2020 are as under: –

  • The Bill is more compact in comparison to the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963 as the number of sections has been reduced to 76 from 134 by eliminating overlapping and obsolete Sections.
  • The new Bill has proposed a simplified composition of the Board of Port Authority which will comprise of 11 to 13 Members from the present 17 to 19 Members representing various interests. A compact Board with professional independent Members will strengthen decision making and strategic planning. Provision has been made for inclusion of representatives of State Government in which the Major Port is situated, Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Defence and Customs, Department of Revenue as Members in the Board apart from a Government Nominee Member and a Member representing the employees of the Major Port Authority.
  • The role of Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP) has been redefined. Port Authority has now been given powers to fix tariff which will act as a reference tariff for purposes of bidding for PPP projects. PPP operators will be free to fix tariff- based on market conditions. The Board of Port Authority has been delegated the power to fix the scale of rates for other port services and assets including land.
  • An Adjudicatory Board has been proposed to be created to carry out the residual function of the erstwhile TAMP for Major Ports, to look into disputes between ports and PPP concessionaires, to review stressed PPP projects and suggest measures to review stressed PPP projects and suggest measures to revive such projects and to look into complaints regarding services rendered by the ports/ private operators operating within the ports.
  • The Boards of Port Authority have been delegated full powers to enter into contracts, planning and development, fixing of tariff except in national interest, security and emergency arising out of inaction and default. In the present MPT Act, 1963 prior approval of the Central Government was required in 22 instances.
  • The Board of each Major Port shall be entitled to create specific master plan in respect of any development or infrastructure.
  • Provisions of CSR & development of infrastructure by Port Authority have been introduced.
  • Provision has been made for safeguarding the pay & allowances and service conditions including pensionary benefits of the employees of major ports

Reacting to the development, Mr. Rajiv Agarwal, CEO & MD, Essar Ports, commented: “The Major Ports Authorities Bill passed by the Rajya Sabha is indeed a revolutionary move in the Indian Ports Sector. The bill will provide regulation, flexibility and self-governance to the Major Ports of the country. It will develop a faster and transparent decision making process, which will help in the growth and development of Major Ports thereby enabling them to compete in the evolving market environment.”

“Also, the move will certainly pave way for driving the country’s vision towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat and making India – A Global Manufacturing Hub,” Mr Agarwal added.

On the passing of the Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020 by Rajya Sabha, Mr. Ankit Patel, Vice President and Co-Head, Corporate Ratings, ICRA, said: “The enactment of the Major Ports Authority Bill, 2020 has been a long-awaited reform. The bill envisions creation of a Board for each of the Major Ports replacing the existing Port Trusts. The Board will have the power to take decisions on tariff setting, land usage, dispute resolution, capex planning, fund raising and several other strategic issues at the Major Ports. The new autonomous structure should enable faster decision-making, infusion of professionalism and improvement in efficiency levels ensuring better usage of port assets, hence benefitting all the stakeholders.  According to ICRA, this is also positive in terms of attracting more private sector investments in Major ports under PPP regime, as the budget outlay for the sector is limited and capex requirements are large under the Sagar Mala initiative.”

*This story has been updated multiple times for adding reactions from the maritime fraternity.

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