Minor ports set to play major role

Santosh Patnaik

Faster cargo handling and discharging of ships may help them reverse the trend

National Maritime Development Programme draws up plan to meet the challenge: VPT Chairman

Those who are efficient will have good business, says Gangavaram Port official

VISAKHAPATNAM: With privatisation on top of the agenda, non-major ports are all set to take over major ports in handling cargo in the next five years or so.

“We (non-major ports) are on a fast-track march. With Greenfield ports having their own plus points, I am pretty sure we can reverse the current trend,” Sanjay Gupta, Director (commercial), Gangavaram Port Limited, told The Hindu.

At present, the 12 major ports account for 70 per cent of total traffic. With a chain of minor ports coming up all over the coastline under the public-private participation mode, the all-weather fully mechanised ports are likely to have a dominant role due to faster handling of cargo and discharging of ships.

“Ultimately, the users don’t want to waste their money. Time saved in berthing, turnaround and competitive handling charges will be the criteria to attract cargo vessels. Hence, those who are efficient will have good business,” Mr. Gupta said. The major ports, which had handled 20 million tonnes in 1950s, have attracted traffic of 510 million tonnes in 2007-08. The compound annual growth rate in 1991 rose to 7.8 per cent as against five per cent during the earlier period. The non-major ports had handled a throughput of 196 million tonnes, which went up from a paltry eight per cent in 1990-91 to 28 per cent in 2007-08. Market analysts say this will go up further.

Capacity addition

According to Visakhapatnam Port Trust Chairman Ajeya Kallam, to meet the challenges ahead, the National Maritime Development Programme envisages investment of 158 projects for capacity augmentation at a total investment of Rs.25,000 crores in major ports in the next three to four years. As per NMDP projections, the traffic at the major ports of East Coast will go up to 325 million tonnes by 2011-12. There is a need to add 200 million tonnes by next three to four years in major ports, which is a gigantic task, admitted Mr. Kallam.

Meltdown effect

As the ports have started feeling the impact of market meltdown, the port managements think that incentives should be announced in the form of duty cuts to encourage large parcels so as to reduce landed cost of cargo.

“We need space to handle. So there is scope for more new ports. But a few more incentives at this crucial juncture will go a long way for capacity augmentation,” Mr. Gupta said.

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