MUMBAI: The Bombay high court recently stayed a tendering process initiated last month by JNPT to appoint dedicated road transporters.
The order came in a petition filed by Maharashtra Heavy Vehicle and Interstate Container Operators Association to challenge the process alleging discrimination. The association said if issued tender issued is not withdrawn it would mean only large transporters could bid with a "devastating effect on the livelihood of over 450 transporters and 20,000 families of employees.'' Transporters said they invested Rs 500 crore for 4,000 vehicles.
The bids sought by JNPT (traffic department) are for selection of transporter to provide transport solution for various identified routes for direct port delivery ISO Freight Containers from the four JNPT terminals. The intention is to select a panel of transporters for five regions and all containers will be diverted only to these qualified quintet.
The operators association and its member John Cordiera in their petition filed through advocate Ashish Mehta claimed that the tender would overnight render its members jobless. Arguing before a bench of Justices S S Kemkar and A M Badar, the association counsel Sujay Kantawala and Rohan Rajadhyaksh sought a stay on the March 23 tender, as it was "arbitrary, illegal'' "lacks jurisdiction'' and would "create a monopoly'' The association had "raised a debt of over Rs 500 crore in modernizing their fleet of 4,000 vehicles and projections sought through the tender would be extremely hazardous to the trade,'' the petition said.
Opposing grant of any interim relief, Vikram Nankani, counsel for JNPT said it was a Government policy to streamline transport and overcome Port congestion and doesn't attract interference. He said he would file a detailed affidavit and sought time. Nankani requested that the bids be allowed to be filed by May 3, the set deadline. The court gave him time and posted the matter on June 6 but said no further steps can be taken in the bidding process till then. The JNPT tender speaks of an "out-of-box' one-time to reduce the stacking at ports due to yard constraints and a one-time solution
Kantawalla said the tender document accepts that the present system is "working very effectively and handling 36 lakh road containers in its yard,'' but it now seeks bids from operators with minimum 109 trailer-trucks for certain routes, a threshold that would make most of the association members ineligible and lead to "chaos''. He said, "More than 80% would be out of job and forced to align with big roadlines.''