Herald: Vasco fishermen fear POL berth

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Vasco fishermen fear POL berth

23 Sep 2018 05:48am IST
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23 Sep 2018 05:48am IST

An atmosphere with half truths and statements being made to mislead the general population has not helped matters. Pratik Parab takes a hard look at the situation surrounding the fishermen and the proposed berth in Vasco

hough the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) has decided to not have the Petroleum Oil and Lubricants (POL) berth at Khariwado Jetty and maintain the old POL berth, the fishermen community and environmental activists however are still wary that the MPT may ultimately stop the usage of the fishing jetty of Kharewado for security reasons. The apprehension that a POL Berth being sited hardly 700 meters away from the town of Vasco is an ill thought plan and needs to be rejected. The MPT is going to have a tough time in convincing the people at the upcoming Public Hearing.The members of Goa Against Coal (GAC) has already made it clear that they would support the fishing jetty at Khariwado but would oppose the POL berth at Vasco bay during the forthcoming public hearing for the Vasco bay development plan by Mormugao Port Trust (MPT). Under Vasco bay development plan, the MPT has proposed to construct a 520-metre long finger quay perpendicular to Vasco Bay (Kharewaddo beach) with petroleum, oil and lubricants (POL) berth on the western side and a fishing harbour on the eastern side, separated by a security wall.The MPT Chairman I. Jeyakumar before relieving the charge while speaking on this Project had said "We have approval for the POL berth and the news that there are no permissions is wrong. The approval itself means that it is well within the safety standards prescribed by the national authority that is Chief Controller of Explosives" he said."When we speak regarding a project we cannot lie because we are responsible government Authority. We got permissions and we are going to still discuss at the next board meeting how to go about it and whether to retain the same POL berth. However multiple cargo and Cruise berth is the plan" he had mentioned.The former Chairman has also reiterated that there is nothing to worry from the public point of view. "There is a merit in our argument and there may be some people making sensational comments. Even though he has approval we are keeping it as a record and whether to go for the POL berth or not will be taken a call in the next board meeting" he said earlier. The Board meeting of the MPT has happened recently and the board has decided to wait for the public hearing that is happening on the 5th of October.The MPT will have to spend 136 crore to have a new POL jetty. The MPT has now come on record claiming that after checking with the present concessioner that is Vedanta who is handling the existing POL Berth they will rather maintain the existing Jetty for Petroleum Oil and Lubricants and use the new jetty for clean cargo and Cruise Liners. "This is the idea, however it is not approved by the board but once the board approves this can be a reality" I. Jeyakumar mentioned.

In reply to this contention of the MPT Environmental Activist Savio Correia said "MPT management is running like headless chickens. First, they propose re-development of Berth 8, 9 and barge berths that included shifting the POL berth. They did a EIA study and held a public hearing that went on for three days. Now they call for public hearing on the POL Berth at Vasco Bay, and in the same breath, are contemplating on shelving the project for lack of funds, and to retain POL at Berth 8" pointed Savio. "If you didn’t have the money, what was the need for all the tamasha? To me, it looks like a sinister plan to confuse the public, having failed to convince" accused Savio.

Savio also informed that the PESO (Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation) has only given clearance to the Petroleum and Oil and Lubricants handling at the proposed berth and has rejected the LPG gas handling which gives a message of how dangerous the POL berth will be for the fishermen who live just 400 meters away from the proposed site. 

The MPT in its report has already maintained that the requirement of liquid cargo like the Petroleum Oil and Lubricants is seen a phenomenal increase and according to projections is going to increase even further. The Present capacity of Mormugao Port is 47 Million Metric Tonnes Per Annum. Till 2010-11, it was a major Iron ore exporting port with maximum capacity handled of 45 MMTPA during 2010-11. Due to sudden ban on iron-ore export in Oct 2012, the port has diversified its cargo berth. During 2016-17 and has achieved a growth rate of 64 %, highest among major Ports of the country. Main cargo comprises of coal, coke, bauxite, steel coil, POL/liquid products and other general cargo.Mormugao Port is presently handling Liquid cargo at Berth Nos. 8 and 10. Port has signed an Agreement with M/s Goa Sea Port Pvt. Ltd., for redevelopment of berth nos. 8 and berth no. 9 for handling multipurpose cargo. Berth 10 & 11 are exclusively utilized for handling general cargo and occupancy of these berths are more than 80 %. In line with the Govt. Policy and considering the coastal shipping movement of cargoes like steel, cement, fertilizer, food grains and coal from Mormugao Port, the MPT has proposed to handle coastal cargo at these berths.Mormugao Port had in their initial proposal, proposed to develop a POL, multipurpose and a coastal cargo berth in the Vasco bay opposite to the berth nos. 10 and 11. It is an offshore berth and this berth is earmarked for future development. The proposed development of new Berth at Vasco Bay is estimated to cost Rs. 200 crores.Presently, Liquid cargo is handled at Berth Nos. 8 and 10. Berth no. 8 handles various liquid cargoes viz. Caustic soda, Furnace oil, HSD, Liquid Ammonia, Motor Spirit, Palm oil etc. These products are received in smaller tankers with low parcels sizes. The unloading is done with ship’s pumps. The MPT claims that the average productivity at this berth is very low i.e. about 9000 TPD only. The capacity of the berth is 2.2 MTPA with about 70% occupancy. The berth occupancy of this berth in 2014-15 and 2015-16 has been only 26%. Berth 10 and 11 handle Liquid cargo like Aviation oil, HSD, Furnace Oil, LSHF, Kerosene and Phosphoric acid etc. The above cargo is besides the General cargo which is predominantly handled at these berths. The total cargo handled at these berths in 2015-16 is 2.64 MMTs. The Berth occupancy of these berths in 2014-15 is 81% & 79% and in 2015-16 it is 67% & 68% respectively. Going by the norms, these berths are over utilized in 2014-15 and nearly utilized optimally in 2015-16. By releasing the Liquid cargo handling from these berths the utilisation / occupancy can be at optimal levels and can be utilized for handling other general cargo. As per the traffic projections the Liquid cargo is set to a growth of more than 2 Million tonnes by 2029-30 and is poised to improve to the level of 3.59 Million Tonnes by the end of 2040-41.The share of coastal cargo in the total traffic was around 8% in 2014-15 and 5.3% in 2015-16. POL constitutes about 47% in 2014-15 and 51% in 2015-16 of total coastal traffic. Out of the above, if POL is shifted to the new POL Berth and the Iron ore / pellets are shifted to Berth Nos 8 and 9 and also problems in shifting of overflowing iron ore/pellets if any to the New Coastal berth, the cargoes that can be shifted are the other cargo which is Steel coils and other non-polluting cargo. The steel cargo is expected to grow to the maximum extent and is expected to touch a volume of 3.1 Million tonnes by 2035. This apart, the port can handle the Coastal cargo of Cement, Fertilisers and Food Grains in small quantities.The present proposal is for development of POL/Coastal/Multipurpose cargo at a cost of Rs. 200.00 crores which includes capital dredging with a draft of (-) 15.00 mtr. Loading / Unloading to have flexibility for handling different types of cargo and ships gear may be used for handling coastal / general cargo. Given the fact that the POL Cargo is not 51 percent of the entire cargo traffic to MPT the likelihood of wanting a larger berth cant be ignored. This is infact worrying the dependents and stakeholders here.Having said that the Goa Against Coal organisation has reiterated that they are not against the Khariwado fishing jetty as a new fishing jetty is needed for the trawler owners operating from Khariwado fishing jetty. However the GAC has opposed the proposed POL berth at Vasco bay. The GAC claims that the MPT wants to construct POL hub in the name of fishing harbour. GAC convenor Custodio D’ Souza said "The MPT were initially operating from berth number 5 and 6 and slowly they expanded their operational area till Khariwado and now they want to divide Khariwado beach into two so that they can grab half the portion of the Khariwado beach and that too keeping traditional fisherman aside. But we will not allow the MPT to expand anymore towards Khariwado,” he warned. The environment activists have alleged that the MPT plans to take develop the jetty in the bay and later take it over completely citing security reasons.Savio Correia, Environmental Activist said "While ports the world over are expanding away from their densely populated port cities, Mormugao seems to be bucking the trend. To me, this is MPT's most ill-thought-out project. Siting the petroleum berth at Vasco Bay poses a serious risk to the lives of thousands of people in Vasco; the entire town falling within a 700 metre radius" said Savio."The town has already earned the description of a "ticking time-bomb". It looks like MPT is bent on driving Vascokars out of their town at all costs, first by slow poisoning them with coal dust and now by building a menacing POL berth on their doorstep. The project will impact the livelihood of several traditional fishermen operating off the beach. Importantly, Kharewaddo/ Vasco beach is a public beach and held by Government under doctrine of public trust" Savio added. Savio also said that the beach belongs to the people of Vasco in particular and Goa in general and no one, more so MPT, can take it over and deprive its use and enjoyment by Vascokars."It has to be preserved and protected for posterity. The unfortunate part is that decisions are being taken by few people within MPT's management who have no concern or empathy whatsoever towards the Goan people and their land. I strongly oppose the project in its present form" Savio opposed. "Be that as it may, I am in favour of constructing a modern fishing harbour at or near the present site exclusively for our fishermen without MPT's intervention" demanded Savio. With the opposition to the POL berth it will be interesting to see what the Government does regarding this burning issue at Vasco.
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