By Sunanda Natrajan
Among the prime highlights of 2017 widely publicised by mass media, one that is missing is the newfound growth registered by the Indian ports.
In 2017-18, the country’s 12 major ports registered an impressive growth rate of 3.64 percent at 499.41 million tonnes, as reported by the Ministry of Shipping. Ports in India handle close to 61 percent of the country’s total cargo traffic and between April to December of the previous year, eight major ports: Kolkata (including Haldia), Paradip, Vishakhapatnam, Chennai, Cochin, New Mangalore, JNPT and Kandla, recorded a positive growth in the volume and traffic of trade handled.
The boxes they ticked
Indian ports have an exceptional success story to tell as they outperformed private ports for the third consecutive year. In 2016-17, official data indicated that the ports managed a total traffic of 647.43 million tonnes which yielded an annual growth rate of 6.79 percent, as compared to 4.32 percent recorded in 2015-16. Therefore, the overall performance of the port sector in the shipping industry has been improving year after year. But what has changed is the relative ranking of the individual ports in terms of cargo handling. In 2016, Kandla port was on top of the list, having handled 105.44 million tonnes of cargo. Following that was Paradip port with 88.95 million tonnes of cargo and Mumbai port took the third position with 63.05 million tonnes. However, last year, the highest growth was measured by Cochin port with a growth rate of 17.27 percent, followed by Paradip with 14.59, Kolkata with 12.45, and New Mangalore at 6.60.
Furthermore, in terms of volume of traffic managed by the ports, Kandla port logged the highest volume at 81.12 million tonnes in 2017, followed by Paradip at 74.40 million tonnes and JNPT port at 48.89. Last year, the highest growth in Cochin port was primarily a result of the increase in the traffic of containers by 10.79 percent as well as a sharp rise in the traffic of POL (Petroleum, Oil and other Lubricants) by 24.10 percent. This is in contrast to its previous performance indicators which were mainly enlisted to be iron ore and other miscellaneous cargo.
The significance of growth of ports
Ports are one of the most significant means of national and global economic integration. Under the orders of Manuel I of Portugal, four vessels under Commander Vasco da Gama circumnavigated around the Cape of Good Hope, traversing through to the eastern coast of Africa all the way to Calicut across the Indian Ocean. Since then, Indian maritime history has exemplified the vitality of using its comprehensive network of sea routes to carry out activities of economic and cultural importance. With the institutionalization of trade openness and economic liberalization, traders, producers and manufacturers have expanded production units to adapt to geographically disintegrated and conducive areas where they can take advantage of cost and fuel efficiency.
One of the significant benefits that ports provide in trade transportation is that of fuel efficiency. Railways require twice as much energy consumption, while road requires ten times as much as sea conveyance. In that respect, seaports prove to be an environment-friendly means of achieving economic growth. They also provide essential links to hidden industrial hinterlands which facilitate trade expansion. Additionally, various major cities like Mumbai and Kolkata are now popular port cities in India because development of ports spur the growth of other economic activities like banking, insurance, etc. and subsequently generate a massive surge of employment opportunities.
What to expect?
The proportion of container shipments to the overall cargo managed by Indian seaports is projected to rise by 25 percent by the end of the financial year 2018-19. The share of POL and container shipments has been at an all-time high in India as compared globally, where a substantial pick-up is required, and plans have been put in place to achieve containerisation of a wider variety of cargo. In addition to this, major ports in India are also expanding their container-handling capacity and are expected to soon reach 25 million tonne equivalent units (TEUs) against its current capacity of 13 million TEUs. It looks like the Shipping Ministry is ready to step up their game in the coming years.
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius