The Western India Shippers Association says shipping lines and the Indian government share responsibility for the congestion and delays blighting operations at India’s largest container gateway.
India is enjoying an economic boom but container port capacity at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust has not kept pace. Total volume handled at its three over-worked terminals has totaled just over 4 million 20-foot equivalents in each of the last two years as operators of the port’s three terminals have been unable to increase capacity quickly enough to meet soaring demand.
Subsequent delays have prompted carriers to impose congestion surcharges and divert services.
“The application of congestion charges is unacceptable since I blame the carriers as much as the terminals for this situation,” said R. Venkatesh, chairman of the WISA. “None of them I know of plan a service or capacity increase considering the terminal capacity, so such changes effectively impose serious strain on the entire operation.
“I also blame the government the most for not having the foresight on trade growth and preparing capacities.”
JNPT’s own container terminal has one berth closed for installation of new cranes. This has caused a new capacity crunch, but that is just the latest at a port where almost any disruption to supply chains results in lengthy delays.
“All three terminals at JN port operate at more than 90 percent utilization,” said Anil Singh, senior vice president and managing director at DP World, which operates one of the port’s container terminals.
“At DP World Nhava Sheva, we are pushing our capacity hard to meet the growing needs of our customers, and utilization is considerably greater than the terminal was designed to handle — improving efficiency so that we can handle more volume is a requirement every day.”
A planned fourth terminal project, JNPT4, has been stalled for years after APM Terminals challenged its exclusion from the tender process. India’s Supreme Court decided that case in APMT’s favor in May but the operator says it no longer will pursue the project.
“Having carefully studied the tender terms and sought clarifications from the authorities, we had to conclude that the project was not financially viable,” said Hans Ole Madsen, who manages new terminal developments in the region.
“We dedicated serious resources to evaluate the JNPT4 opportunities. It is important to clarify that we received the tender documents for the JNPT4 project post the favorable ruling from the Supreme Court of India,” he said in an interview.
A consortium headed by PSA International and ABG Infra appears close to securing the tender to build JNPT4 but legal issues are again delaying the project. PSA International refused to comment.
A fifth terminal is now at the consultancy tender stage but completion remains years away.