A walkthrough of the transformational journey of India’s Largest Container Port: In conversation with Sanjay Sethi (IAS), Chairman, JNPT

Established in 1989, the Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT), also known as Nhava Sheva Port, is the largest container port in India. It accounts for around 50% of the total containerized cargo volume across the major ports of India. JNPT, in the three decades of its operations, transformed from a bulk-cargo terminal to become a premier container port. To achieve this feat, JNPT has been committed to its mission and is constantly equipping itself with state-of-the art technology, efficiency, and manpower, which are at par with international standards.
Logistics Insider, for its second anniversary issue, reached out to Sanjay Sethi, (IAS) Chairman, JNPT who takes us on the port’s journey, which has anchored itself as the major catalyst for the trade and commerce in the country. In this exclusive interview, Mr. Sethi talks about the port’s contribution to the nation’s growth story, the importance of developing world class ports, its expansion plans, and the latest developments at the port.

JNPT has been one of the major ports in India. Throw some light on the port’s contribution to India’s growth story, especially at the time when the nation was reeling under the COVID -19 pandemic?

Over the past 32 years, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) has been continuously evolving and upgrading to improve operational efficiency parameters. As the port completes 32 years of operations, some major projects and strategic
initiatives will become operational in the coming months. All these initiatives will drive JNPT’s next phase of transformation, over the next decade. We benchmark our services against the best ports in the world and are constantly evolving to meet the demands of the global market. Last year, the pandemic struck the world, and during that time one of the few sectors that could help the ecosystem was the ports and logistics sector. The
critical role played by India’s ports, logistics, and supply chain sectors in the country’s economic growth story cannot be understated.
The port ensured the availability of essential goods to sustain national and international needs. By being fully operational when numerous industries came to a complete standstill, JNPT continued its delivery of vital goods such as medical supplies, fuel, and food in these difficult times.

Despite various challenges faced last year, we achieved a few important milestones, the most significant amongst them was the opening of the new Centralized Parking Plaza and JNPT-SEZ. During the year many other strategic measures for ‘Ease of Doing Business’ were also implemented per the guidelines of the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways.

Developing World Class Ports is crucial to boost coastal shipping, cut down on cost and fulfil the cargo handling needs. And, to facilitate the same JNPT is developing the Vadhavan Port. Please enlighten us with the status of the Port?

In February 2020, The Union Cabinet, approved the setting up of the country’s 13th major port at Vadhavan in Maharashtra at a total cost of INR 65,544.54 crore and with a natural draft of 20 meters. This ‘All-weather, All Cargo Port’ will facilitate the berthing of modern ultra-large container vessels. The reason behind setting up another major port on India’s western coast is due to optimum capacity utilization of container cargo at JN Port, which is 10 million TEUs (Twenty foot Equivalent Unit). The capacity of ports on the entire west coast is 18 million TEUs while the total requirement is going to increase to 25 million TEUs in 2030.

JNPT had earlier announced the construction of JNPT SEZ, which is to be the
first port-based, multi-product SEZ in the country. Can you update us on the progress of the project? Also, how will it contribute in making India a manufacturing hub, enable port-led development and help the maritime sector?

JN Port, developed a multiproduct SEZ in its owned freehold land of 277 hectares at Navi Mumbai, six km southeast from the port. Today the JNPT-SEZ is operational and there are 20 MSME and one Free Trade Warehousing Zone
(FTWZ) co-developer who have been allotted plots to date. JNPT is ensuring world-class infrastructure and facilities to units in the SEZ. Port-led development underlines the fact that the Port should be near the export-oriented units. In China, most of the export units are within 150 to 300 km of the Port, the same distance in India is in an average range of 700 to 800 km this makes our logistics cost very high and the export turn to be costlier. This disadvantage has been resolved, as the JNPT-SEZ has been set up within 5kms from JNPT, which will help in achieving zero logistics cost for the EXIM community.

Connected to over 200 major global ports, through JNPT, is in close vicinity to Navi Mumbai Airport, Trans
harbour link, rail, and world-class road connectivity, dedicated coastal berth, and Dedicated Freight
corridor coming up, all makes JNPT SEZ lucrative destination. Apart from these infrastructures, single-window clearance, availability of skilled manpower is an added advantage.

JNPT-SEZ is the first of its kind operational port-based multi-product SEZ. Two units in JNPT
SEZ namely, M/s OWS LLP and M/s Krish Food Industry (India) were declared operational units by Development Commissioner, SEEPZ, SEZ. Today, as we are moving towards normalization and with the JNPT-SEZ now being operational, the port is leaving no stone unturned to ensure world-class infrastructure and facilities to units in the SEZ.

The potential investment and the employment generation will give a boost to the entire ecosystem around the JNPT region. Over the last couple of months, we have been continuously working towards the successful operationalisation of the SEZ.

The SEZ once fully occupied is expected to generate INR 4,000 crore of investments and create around 57,000 jobs in the SEZ.

SEZs have become a more dynamic and intense instrument for expanding exports with some extra advances, including setting up the new SEZs in CEZs as visualized under the Sagarmala port-led development strategy, as CEZs have strong hinterland connectivity to create domestic supply chains. Appropriate interlinkages with the domestic tariff area have also ensured the efficiency of exports.

We expect a large inflow of foreign and domestic investment in JNPT SEZ, in infrastructure and productive capacity, leading to the generation of additional economic activity and the creation of employment opportunities. This will further promote manufacturing and will directly contribute to making JNPT, the ‘Port of Choice for the Exim Trade’. Also, with the introduction of port-based SEZ, the hinterlands of JNPT are being industrialized and this is prompting an economic transformation.

In the coming days, Port-led industrialization will not only enhance capacity and productivity for our business but also provide employment and livelihood to the local community and thus help in inclusive development. We are confident of attracting leading global companies for making India a manufacturing hub as the infrastructure development underway in JNPT SEZ is as per the international benchmark.

JNPT-SEZ will generate cargo and add to the volumes shipped through its facilities. With this, India’s premier container port aims to make exports more competitive and imports less costly.

This is an abridged version of the interview. To read the complete interview, click here.

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