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i-maritime news letter

Kolkata port faces major staff attrition by retirement - 2012-02-13


Amidst the continuing miseries of falling river draft and its resulting impact on the cargo handling, one thing is definitely changing at the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT). The country's first major port and the only such river port in the world, is getting leaner every day, courtesy a sharp increase in the rate of superannuation.
Already down from its historic high of nearly 40,000 employees to 8,500 as in end of last year, Kolkata's iconic establishment will keep shedding its manpower by 500-600 a year for the next four years. “Nearly 2,200 people will retire on superannuation by 2015,” the KoPT Chairman, Mr M.L. Meena, told Business Line. Since most of those retiring are from workers category and all the future expansion of port activities should be carried out through private participation (formally referred as public-private-partnership), the exodus should help the port authorities to reduce operating expenditure and ensure better operating surplus. The port trust has posted 45 per cent rise in operating surplus in the first nine months of this fiscal to Rs 369 crore. While bulk of the surplus was generated through increase in tariff (as is declared by the Tariff Authority of Major Ports); KoPT is credited to post a decline in operating expenditure, courtesy a drop in employee costs (due to retirement) and lower energy consumption, among others. A drop in manpower, however, does not necessarily mean that the KoPT's expenditures will decline accordingly. Compared to a mere 8,500 employees drawing Rs 23-24 crore a month, the port trust currently has 33,000 pensioners requiring a monthly spend of Rs 20 crore. While recruitment is more or less freezed, the swelling list of pensioners may sooner or later create a situation, whereby, the KoPT may have to spend more on retirement benefits than on wages. As a new wage pact is due from March, the expenditure on employees as well as pensioners are also set to spiral beginning next fiscal.
For Mr Meena, the biggest worry lies in its waning strength of officers. “We are now having a mere 600 officers that too mostly in the senior level,” he said anticipating a serious impact on the growth prospect. “In the absence of adequate mid and lower level officers, supervision of contracts will be seriously affected in the future,” the KoPT Chairman feels. The vacancies are most apparent concerning key areas of piloting, river channel maintenance, berthing, survey, maintenance of vessels etc. Port authorities have already requested the Shipping Ministry to allow fresh recruitments in these areas.

Source: Hindu Business Line