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All hands on deck: Indian ports committed to add capacity

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Anticipating a high tide in the EXIM activity in the current and next fiscal year, top-tier ports in the country are speeding up projects to ramp up their cargo handling capacity and eliminate supply chain bottlenecks. The list includes Kolkata’s Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port, Chennai Port, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), Mundra Port, Thoothukudi’s V.O. Chidambaranar Port and Cochin Port.

Over the next 2 years, according to Vinit Kumar (Chairman at Kolkata’s Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port), measures are being taken to expedite the port development projects worth INR 1,700 Cr. including those to augment capacity, modernise infrastructure, monetise assets and digitise operations. The tender issuing process to modernise more berths at Haldia port and create an extended gate to the port at Balagarh (80 km from Kolkata) is also being cranked up.

While these projects will take time to be implemented, the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port is striving alongside to decrease the waiting time for ships and give a push to the cargo handling capacity through various other means. According to a port official, “We are looking to start night navigation of vessels between the pilotage point at Sagar and the Kolkata Dock System in the next six months. Ships will be saving nearly seven to eight hours between Sagar and Kolkata if night navigation is started and this will help increase cargo handling at the port.”

On the western side, Navi Mumbai’s Jawahar Lal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), that boasts of being the largest container handling port, is also working towards ways to expand its handing capacity, modernise operations and increase efficiency with additional railway lines and reduced dwell times at the port. There is also a possibility to revise the port’s development masterplan, which was drawn in 2016 and was to be completed in 3 phases by 2020, 2025 and 2030. The expedited timeline will aim at achieving the target by 2023-24 and 2028-29 for the second and third phase respectively. Both the unfinished phase targets are based on the PPP model. Developments of the third phase will especially give the JNPT leverage over the others with a multipurpose cargo terminal at Uran mudflats and an additional liquid bulk terminal.

“Since August 2016, there have been various developments at JN Port and no waterfront area is now left for conducting technical feasibility of the projects.” said a senior port official.

Similarly, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) has obtained environment and coastal regulation zone clearances to raise the capacity at the Mundra Port from 300 million tonnes to 385 million tonnes. The feat is to be achieved during the current year and will entail individual projects to extend the eastern and western breakwater by 500 meters each. It is also anticipated that there will be additional railway lines to and from the port to ease the movement of traffic.

Moving towards the southern end, the Chennai Port is working with the NHAI to expedite the construction of an 8 km bridge between Chennai Port and Manali Road-Thiruvottiyur Junction as part of the de-congestion measures, with an expected completion by next year.

The Government of India has set up bigger EXIM targets for the current year and to facilitate hitting the target, it is also working with international container manufacturers like Triton International to increase the import of new containers into Indian ports. Triton is the world’s largest container manufacturer. Another factor being considered to work in favor of the Indian shipping industry is the recent disruptions at Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port.

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