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JNPA eyes top spot in container volumes amid Gati Shakti boosted revamp

'One of India's busiest container ports, JNPA is expected to reclaim its top position in handling container volumes'

Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA)

Sanjay Sethi, Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA)

Amritha Pillay

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Improved logistical connectivity, including road and rail, has helped change how Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Navi Mumbai is viewed, Sanjay Sethi, chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA), tells Amritha Pillay in an interview in Mumbai. One of India’s busiest container ports, JNPA is expected to reclaim its top position in handling container volumes as it prepares to start work on a larger port in Maharashtra. Edited excerpts.

Port connectivity is an important part of the Gati Shakti policy. How has the policy helped JNPA so far?

The basic philosophy of Gati Shakti is integration. As far as the port is concerned, what it means is that we can provide multimodal solutions, so that rail, road and waterways can all be used optimally to get the best results. This multimodal solutions approach has helped in changing the image of JNPA from a congested port to one that offers significant ease of doing business.
 
Even for our new planned port, Vadhvan (also in Maharashtra), the Ministry of Railways, the National Highways Autho­rity of India (NHAI), the waterways, all have come together to give their inputs in a very coordinated manner.

Have there been any teething issues or challenges because it’s a relatively new policy, and it’s talking about integrating a lot of elements across the country?

I think it's the other way around. A lot of departments would work in silos. Now we can come together, and they are all under the same umbrella. So, whatever has happened is, in fact, an incremental gain.

If you ask about the challenges, I would say that in the beginning, probably, some departments took some time, but according to me, it is only incremental growth.

On JNPA, you reported record container volumes for FY23. What factors have contributed to this?

The first is the enhanced capacity itself. Let's say three years ago, we were at just 5 million TEU (20-foot equivalent units) capacity; now that is 7.5 million, and we are also creating more infrastructure in our fourth container terminal, which will take us up to 10 million.

The second part is the operational mechanism. This year, we turned to the landlord model. The last terminal that we were operating ourselves has now also gone on a public-private partnership, which results in better efficiencies, better revenues and lower handling time.

The third part is better connectivity and other technological developments, including digitisation.

What is the medium-term plan to increase productivity and profits?

In one- and- a- half to two years from now, we will have a capacity of 10 million TEU, which is the saturation point of the port. We are also looking at a very ambitious project of developing a new port at Vadhvan, where the capacity will be as much as 23 million TEU. We are now in a position to say that in four to five months, everything will roll out. We expect the port to be ready by 2028-29.

At 10 million TEU, do you expect to re-claim the pole position as the port handling the largest container volumes in the country?

Mundra (Adani Ports and SEZ in Gujarat) has been doing a little more than us for the last couple of years, also because it does a lot of trans-shipment, which we don’t. We will overtake that within two years.

What is your overall outlook on container traffic and growth projections?

I can only say that JNPA has seen a steady increase. Last year, we had a very good increase in exports. And this year also, till now, we are seeing steady increase or growth. However, the effects of the slowdown in the world economy, especially the European part, the impact of the ongoing  Russia-Ukraine war, 

or for that matter, the space created by China are some of the factors that will have to be studied in greater detail to forecast the situation as things stand today. We are very bullish that our growth trend will continue.

You plan to build a brand new port. Any fundraising plans?

The project cost is about Rs 77,000 crore, of which we have to spend Rs 45,000 crore. So obviously, going by a debt-equity ratio of 30-70, we need to raise those funds. Mostly, it is going to be commercial loans. We have made our financial engineering plan and are in touch with a lot of financial institutions.

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First Published: Aug 31 2023 | 12:46 AM IST

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