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Mandaviya directs port chiefs to protect casual workers interest amid coronavirus outbreak

New Delhi, Mar 24 (PTI) To ensure that casual workers at Indian ports do not suffer and cargos are efficiently handled, Union minister Mansukh Lal Mandaviya on Tuesday directed chairpersons of all ports to take necessary steps, including timely payment of wages.

The government has already declared transport service for carriage of goods by water and any service-connected with loading, unloading, movement or storage of goods in any port as essential service.

'In connection with the COVID-19 outbreak, Minister of State (I/C) for Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya today reviewed situation at all major ports regarding cargo handling, SOP, payment to casual labourers, etc., through video conferencing, with all the chairpersons of ports and Director General, Shipping in this pandemic situation,' the Ministry of Shipping said in a statement.

More than 90 per cent of exim (export-import)cargo is handled through ports.

'For proper and smooth maintenance of the supply chain, the Ministry of Shipping is taking all-round measures. For easy movement of cargo at ports, the Ministry of Shipping has prepared Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to be adhered at all ports to fight against COVID-19,' the statement said.

Amid coronavirus outbreak, the government has so far prevented over 30,000 crew and passengers on board about 1,000 ships from disembarking on Indian shores and arranged for safe transport of EXIM cargo, a Shipping Ministry official said on Tuesday.

Apart from restricting cargo handling and scanning passengers and crew, the government has prohibited the entry of any international cruise ship, crew or passengers with a travel history to coronavirus-hit countries post-February 1, 2020, to its major ports till March 31.

India has 12 major ports -- Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) -- which handled 699.04 MT of cargo during 2018-19.

There are about 200 non-major ports under the control of states.

The government had last month directed all 12 major ports to immediately put in place screening, detection and quarantine system for disembarking seafarers and cruise passengers as a preventive measure against the coronavirus outbreak.

Directions had also been issued to ports to procure N-95 masks as well as thermal scanners to screen passengers, besides obtaining self-declaration from arriving crew/passengers.

To prevent the spread of the deadly virus, the Ministry of Shipping had said it will allow only such international cruise ships which had intimated their call to ports by January 1, 2020.

'Only those international cruise ships which had planned and intimated their call to an Indian Port not later than 1st January 2020 will be allowed to call on such port,' it said. PTI NAM MR