An expert committee set up by the Supreme Court is studying whether the Chennai Port Trust should be allowed to handle bulk cargoes of coal and iron ore banned by the Madras High Court, a port official said Thursday.
“The Supreme Court has formed a high level committee comprising of secretaries of union shipping and environmental ministries, chief secretary of Tamil Nadu, officials from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, Central Pollution Control Board, IIT Madras, NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute) to study the issue and come out with its report,” Atulya Misra, chairman, Chennai Port, told reporters here.
The apex court formed the committee after the Chennai port Trust filed a special leave petition (SLP) to review the Madras High Court’s judgment banning the port from handling coal and iron ore.
In 2011, the Madras High Court banned Chennai Port from handling coal and iron ore on the grounds of polluting the environment.
The committee is expected to submit its report this July.
According to port officials, the SLP has been filed by the port as well as its users.
“We do not say we want to handle coal and iron ore as we handled earlier. We have around 7,000 workers at the port and there are issues of redeployment of them following the ban order. We are now trying to differentiate cargo and pollution,” Misra said.
Chennai Port officials say that the pollution levels could be fixed.
“We can handle up to six million tonne of coking coal which is not polluting. It is only the thermal coal that is dusty,” a senior port official told, preferring anonymity.
Misra said despite the loss of two major cargoes the port has earned a provisional operating income of Rs.620 crore during fiscal 2011-12 as against Rs.683.91 crore.
The provisional total income last fiscal was Rs.830 crore (operating income plus finance and miscellaneous income) as against Rs.875.76 crore earned during 2010-11.
According to P.C. Parida, deputy chairman, the port has posted a provisional net surplus of Rs.6 crore last fiscal down from Rs.68.06 crore logged during 2010-11.
Misra said the port is now looking at handling more containerised cargo, edible oil, project cargo, sugar, fertiliser and other products.