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Flood impact: Declare Force Majeure, urge stakeholders of Chennai and VOC ports


Some of the trade members involved in port operations have urged the Chennai Port Authority and the VO Chidambaranar Port Authority in Thoothukudi to declare Force Majeure at the ports of Chennai and Thoothukudi respectively due to recent heavy rains and floods at both Chennai and Tuticorin ports.

While Chennai witnessed unprecedented rains on December 3, the coastal town of Thoothukudi in southern Tamil Nadu bore the brunt of Nature’s fury two weeks later. Daily life was badly affected in both places, and the heavy rain badly affected livelihood, and caused heavy loss to properties and badly affected the maritime time.

The Federation of Association of Stevedores has urged the VOC Port Authority (formerly Tuticorin Port Trust) to consider declaring the period December 11, 12 and 13 as non-working days on account of the unprecedented rains that the southern districts of Tamil Nadu experienced. The rains caused widespread havoc, including loss of lives.

Unable to work

The association’s president Ishwar Achanta in a letter to the VOC Port Authority’s Deputy Chairman Bimal Kumar the heavy rain and its impact has resulted in a Force Majeure situation. Stevedore members were unable to work, and numerous delays and penalties have been/are likely to be imposed on Stevedores for failure to adhere to contractual obligations.

Achanta said there is a reduction in migrant labour, essential for stevedores to execute bulk cargo-shore and on-board contracts. As a result of fewer numbers, deliveries and receipts from/to the yard are delayed. This in turn affects the ship turnaround.

The Tuticorin Stevedores Association said the unprecedented rainfall started on December 16 evening and the subsequent floods. All vessel operations were suspended from 1800 hours on December 17. Despite over 48 hours since the heavy rains stopped, most parts of the district were marooned due to the high level of water and power was not restored.

Demurrages pile-up

Industries were shut down due to the flooding, which resulted in their inability to receive or deliver goods to/from the port. Railway demurrages occurred due to a shortage of labour and cargo demurrages are seen due to delayed pick up by clients, he said.

“In light of these circumstances, we kindly request the port authority to consider this situation as an Act of God and declare Force Majeure until normalcy is restored,” the association’s Secretary M Peer Uvaisul Karnaine, wrote to the authority.

It is learnt that a similar request was also taken up with officials of the Chennai Port Authority.

On the reasons for seeking Force Majeure, a source said, “We have defaulted on many contracts due to delay in delivery, paying more demurrage and storage.”

While the port authority cannot declare Force Majeure, it can recommend it to the Ministry, which will issue a Gazette Notification, a source said.

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