Vinod Jagdaale, Mumbai: India’s shipping industry records significant increase in tonnage handled compared to the previous fiscal even as private players like JSW Infra in Dharamtar and Adani in Goa chase high tides India’s economy has regained its sprightly step as evidenced by the data released by the government for the period between April and August. The released data was categorized into 30 broad categories, out of which 24 registered a significant increase in dollar terms over the corresponding period in 2019. Additionally, 11 categories witnessed a growth of more than 20 per cent.
This surge is backed by solid figures from the shipping industry. Cargo traffic at major India ports rose by 11.43 per cent Year-on-Year (YoY) in August 2021. According to Indian Ports Association (IPA), India’s 12 major ports handled a total of 51.68 million tons last August. The numbers hit 57.59 million tons this fiscal, signifying a revival in global maritime trade. The 12 major ports include familiar names like Mumbai, Mormugao, Cochin and Visakhapatnam among others.
Mormugao Port, which plays hosts to JSW, Vendata and Adani in Goa, registered the highest growth with 60.47 per cent, followed by Kamarajar Port (53.73 per cent), Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Mumbai (27.03 per cent) and Cochin Port (21.84 per cent). The total cargo handled at Indian ports is consistently hovering around pre-pandemic levels – the first six months of 2021 saw 114,000 tons of goods traverse Indian ports.
The 12 major ports handle about 55 per cent of India’s cargo annually, with the rest going to the ever-increasing private ports. The pace at which these ports are growing and luring traffic away from the major ports has caught the Centre’s attention. Abhishek Nigam, Associate Director at India Ratings and Research, reckons that in the last five years, volume growth at private ports took place at 1.3-1.4 times of GDP compared to a measly 0.6 times for their major counterparts. He also expects an 8 per cent YoY growth rate in the current fiscal, with private ports doing the heavy lifting.
The sudden rise in private port operations like that of Vedanta, JSW and Adani in Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, has resulted in the Centre announcing its intentions to introduce private-public partnership in the 12 major ports too. Faster turnaround times and seamless connectivity to the hinterland are two critical factors that make private ports attractive to shipping companies. Companies like APSEZ, which operates 12 ports across India, incorporate a higher degree of mechanization in their operations which cuts the turnaround time to as low as 10 per cent. In comparison, the major ports take as much as 23 hours for imports and an even longer 77 hours to process exports.
APSEZ is the largest private multi-port operator in India and is a part of the ports-to-power conglomerate owned by Gautam Adani. Goa, Gujarat, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh are some of the states where the company’s operations are located. The company was recently in the news as it announced its intentions to become a green port and logistics company.
As part of its plans, APSEZ will expand the area under its mangrove afforestation drive from 3,000 hectares to 4,000 hectares by 2024-25. It also plans to reduce its energy inefficiency by 50 per cent, water consumption by 60 per cent and start recycling and reusing 10 million litres of wastewater daily by 2025. The company’s efforts to incorporate sustainability and reduce carbon footprint can be seen in its operations like the Adani goa project. News reports talked about how nozzle technology and other hi-tech processes were leveraged to handle coal dust and carbon emissions.
The adoption of a green approach to port operations by APSEZ is certainly a revolutionary one that can transform the face of the Indian shipping industry. If the problem of slow turnaround times can be addressed, the Indian shipping industry can finally regain its lost advantage as a historical trade outpost.