Mumbai: The Nationalist Congress Party Monday accused the central government of planning to shut down the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) operations and divert maritime traffic and business to Kandla Port in Gujarat.

State spokesperson Nawab Malik claimed that this was being down with a larger design to exploit the port trust land here for commercial purposes.

He pointed out that Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari has already publicly announced that 1,800 acres of land belonging to MbPT would be freed for commercial development.

"The aim is to shift all businesses worth over Rs.1,000 crores to Kandla Port, make MbPT sick and eventually shut it down," Malik told the media.

He said that presently, there are around 10,000 shanties and 4,000 old houses standing on the MbPT land, and their residents would be dumped on the streets by the proposed plans.

"The NCP will strongly oppose any such moves and will stand up for the rights of the local residents, shopkeepers and poor labourers who have settled on the MbPT land," Malik said.

The MbPT, among the oldest and busiest in the country, was founded in 1873 and handled all maritime traffic until 1989, when the adjoining Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust became functional.

Now, MbPT handles mostly bulk cargo of around 60 million tonnes annually, while all the container traffic has been shifted to JNPT.