Major ports traffic dips but outlook good
The growing traffic at Indian ports presents a bright future
Various factors are said to be responsible for six of the 12 major ports which are under the administration of the Federal government, registering a drop in cargo traffic in the calendar year of 2013. This certainly does not indicate that there is a downtrend as such because the remaining 6 ports have performed significantly well and several non-major ports including private ones numbering over 180 have shown an exceptional good throughput. In fact the non-major ports have been responsible for pushing up the India’s total traffic to touch an estimated over 935 million tons. The total traffic volumes of non-major ports continued their upward trajectory with 41.63% share in traffic handled at Indian ports in 2012-13, which was 25.08% in 2001-02.
Among the list of those whose output has slid include Mormugao port which is heading the list, with traffic registering 17.69 million tons - a drop of 54.63% from 39.0 million tons it achieved last year. This was followed by Visakhapatnam that experienced a fall of 12.55% at 58.96 million tons from that of 67.42 mi tons it handled last year. Chennai which had achieved traffic output of 53.4 mi tons accounted a drop of 4.13% from the last year’s figure of 55.71 mi tons. Jawaharlal Nehru port, the country’s largest container port suffered a fall of 1.87% at 64.5 mi tons and Cochin 1.22% at 19.84 mi ton.
Mormugao port has severely lost their iron ore cargo exports after the Supreme Court banned mining. With the state of uncertainty continuing over the resumption of mining activities the Union government approved a Voluntary Retirement Scheme for its port employees in a bid to reduce the workforce at the port.
The Visakhapatnam port could not reach the targeted 68 million tonnes set by the Union Ministry of Shipping for the previous fiscal. The fall in iron-ore cargo, the diversion of transhipment cargo to Paradip port and the ongoing mechanization works on many berths are said to be among the reasons for the shortfall. But on the whole the port's performance is quite creditable. The port could not handle cargo at the general cargo berth due to mechanization project in the outer harbor and the cargo had to be handled in smaller vessels in the inner harbor, making a substantial dent in the cargo-handling. Like many other ports, Visakhapatnam port also suffered a loss of 2-3 million tonnes of iron ore cargo and one million tonnes of pellets caused by the decline in import of iron ore by China. It was quite a blow to a port mainly dependent on bulk cargo.
Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT) had few weeks back faced strikes at one of their terminal. There were other union agitations that caused trucks carrying containers getting held up on the common approach road to the port thus affecting operations of other port’s terminals. The exporters had to queue up for nearly 15 km on the road to get in their containers at JNPT causing protracted delays and cost over-runs.
The Chennai port’s reported fall in throughput has been the result of a ban on usage of its facilities for iron ore and shifting of coal handling to Ennore port. It is looking at new projects, including a roll-in, roll-out car parking facility, to support the increasing demand from the automobile manufacturers.
Though the cargo traffic at major ports have conveyed sluggish signals, non-major ports in the country are reported to be doing better and are outpacing major ports in cargo traffic growth. Non major ports faring better due to presence of diverse and captive cargo streams. The listed non major port entities have, however, reported robust increase in throughput, with volumes of Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited (APSEZL) and Essar Ports Limited (EPL) increasing by 35% and 11% yoy respectively. The Mundra port’s growth has been driven mainly by up-scaling of liquid cargo and dry bulk volumes by 23% and 68% respectively, even as container traffic growth has been relatively slack at 11% yoy. The growth at Essar’s port terminals has been on the back of expanded capacity and increase in off take by its group companies, with Vadinar registering 10% yoy throughput growth and Hazira registering 1% growth during the quarter on yoy basis. EPL also benefitted from the new volumes of the iron-ore terminal at Paradip, which had commenced operations in December 2012. Pipavav port, under Gujarat Pipavav Port Limited, has also reported a 17% improvement in its volumes yoy.