A fall of 9.5 per cent in coal volumes contained the cargo growth of major ports to 0.4 per cent during April-October period of this fiscal. In contrast, coal volumes grew by 11 per cent in FY19.
Apart from the slump in coal imports, despatches by Coal India Ltd (CIL) fell by 7 per cent in the period to 364 million tonnes (mt) from 392 mt in the corresponding period of the last fiscal. A report by ICRA attributes the slowdown in coal imports to the economic slowdown in recent months that has slackened overall demand.
Power demand and consequently thermal power generation has witnessed a decline in the last three to four months along with an attendant slowdown in other consuming industries, resulting in fall in coal demand-supply gap. In addition to weakening power demand, growth in coal demand is also stifled by impact of higher generation from renewable capacities.
"Systemic inventory with users is also possibly down on account of lower ordering following the anticipation of further slowdown in demand. While non-major port data is not available, many non-major ports have significant dependence on coal cargo and thus could face challenges if the slowdown continues," the ICRA report noted.
Apart from the slide in coal cargo, container volume growth has slowed to 3.5 per cent in April-October of FY20 as against 11 per cent growth in FY19. Container Corporation of India (Concor), the market leader in container rail operations, has lowered its volume growth guidance for this fiscal from 8-10 per cent earlier to 1-2 per cent now, indicating anticipation of lower volumes.
In FY19, the total cargo handled by Indian ports registered a moderate increase of 5.9 per cent to 1280 mt from 1209 mt in FY18. Both major ports and non-major ports contributed to the growth, recording growths of 2.9 per cent and 9,8 per cent respectively.
Major ports handled 699 mt whereas non-major ports registered a cargo throughput of 581 mt. Major ports only marginally fell short by one per cent of the Ministry of Shipping target of 704 mt for FY19 mostly due to the under achievement of ports like Mormugao with traditional high dependence on iron ore volumes and lower than expected volume ramp-up at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) from new capacity.