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Cargo traffic growth of 3.64 per cent during April-December has prompted the country’s major ports to either redefine their business strategies or iron out glitches within business operations in order to become strong revenue generators and not just remain plain volume contributors. According to data put out by the Indian Port Association (IPA), the country’s 12 major ports handled 499 million tonnes of cargo during the nine months compared to 481 million in the corresponding period a year ago. While the ports at Paradip and Kochi continued to remain strong volume contributors, the ports at Mumbai and Mormugao were in the negative territory. “We being a city-based port are redefining our business strategy to incorporate even the city and tourism projects along with clean cargo share of Ro-Ro (roll-on and roll-off) apart from pure industrial cargo,” Yashodhan Wanage, deputy chairman of Mumbai port, told Business Standard. “While we will continue to have liquid, coastal and project cargoes like steel and cement, we are betting big on cruise tourism and high-realisation Ro-Ro service of cars to improve our earnings,” he added. The port has a cargo volume target of 63 million tonnes in the current financial year and until December it had garnered nearly 50 million tonnes. “The Ro-Ro service for cars is a high-value business and not volume. We have already grown 25 per cent, year on year, in this segment. Going ahead, we plan to increase this share,” he added. The Mumbai port is also restructuring its offshore container terminal and will be deepening its draught to 14 meters from 10.5 meters at present in order to handle containers coming from Jawaharlal Nehru Port for the city’s cargo consumption. “We are also giving out our non-core business area of dry-docking to Cochin Shipyard, which will earn us Rs 150 million (Rs 15 crore) revenue per annum and save employee costs because the shipyard will be taking over the staff in that facility,” said Wanage. Just as the Mumbai port is turning agile to cater to the city’s needs keeping revenue growth in mind, east coast-based Paradip port is making efforts to improve business operations in order to maintain the already high cargo volume growth. “We have shifted to automation of entry-exit points and this has improved our turnaround time drastically,” SK Mishra, traffic manager at Paradip port, said. “Passage of trucks has more than doubled to 700 a day from 300 earlier,” he added. Paradip is a bulk cargo port that mainly handles thermal coal used by power plants on the east coast. According to a report by Emkay Global, coal volume growth at Paradip port in December was up 71 per cent, year on year. Jawaharlal Nehru Port is managing to clock higher volumes due to its increased traction in direct-port-delivery service.
According to the JNPT website, the share of DPD volume handled has gone up to 36 per cent in December from 27 per cent in February. “JNPT continues to adopt trade friendly measures to further increase trade from the port in an efficient and economical way. The rise in the share of DPD indicates that JNPT is well placed to achieve the target set by the shipping ministry,” said Neeraj Bansal, deputy chairman, JNPT. During the period under review, container traffic at the major ports was up 7.5 per cent to 6.8 million TEU with JNPT contributing 6 per cent growth, year on year, Cochin 11 per cent and Chennai 4 per cent. Not all major ports have, however, managed to tide over the situation. “This year we are short of rail rakes, which is creating an evacuation problem for us amid increased imported coking coal volume,” said PL Haranadh, deputy chairman of the Visakhapatnam port. “The requirement is of 16-17 rakes per day but we are receiving only 10 rakes daily,” he added. Increased imports of coking coal by the Bhilai steel plant of Steel Authority of India have pushed up the bulk cargo volume of the port. “Bhilai will be importing another 1.5 million tonnes of coking coal in the final quarter of this year as there is a strong revival in domestic steel production. Evacuation, which has already become a problem, will have to be tackled. We are seeking more rakes to lift the cargo,” Haranadh said. Kamarajar port, formerly Ennore port that has witnessed a 1.72 per cent year-on-year drop in cargo growth in April-December, is hoping to close the year on a positive note. “Demand for imported coal has dropped. Also, some coal is moving via Tuticorin instead of Kamarajar, which has also lowered our volume,” said A Karuppiah, chief traffic manager at Kamarajar port. “We are hoping to end the year with at least 5 per cent higher volume through container and bulk cargo,” he added. With just one quarter remaining for the major ports to meet their targets for the financial year, it will be interesting to see how the 12 ports garner higher cargo share amid sticky logistical issues and unpredictable trade patterns.