FLEET TONNAGE, CARGO TRAFFIC DECLINE IN INDIA

FLEET TONNAGE, CARGO TRAFFIC DECLINE IN INDIA

A severe foreign exchange crunch hit India's fleet and general cargo traffic at Indian ports during 1991, according to information from the surface transport ministry.

The country's fleet at the end of last December was 415 vessels of 5.94 million registered tons, compared with 418 of 6.03 million tons the previous year.Three vessels were scrapped due to old age but could not be replaced by new ones.

The government set a ship acquisition target of 7.5 million tons for 1980-85 but ended with a gain of only 6.3 million tons. The same target was set for 1985-90, but the result was only 5.9 million tons.

The ministry expects fleet strength to pick up this year. It has cleared proposals to buy six ships, and an improvement in foreign exchange also will help.

A new shipping policy is being drafted to boost Indian tonnage.

The ministry previously said elements of the policy will include permission for Indian companies to sell equity overseas, greater freedom for owners to buy and sell vessels, relaxation in licensing to operate liner routes and simplification of ship licensing procedures.

On shore, India's 11 chief ports processed 114.1 million metric tons of cargo during April to December 1991, the first nine months of fiscal 1991-92. That compares with a target of 112.8 million tons.

Increases in traffic were recorded for petroleum products, iron ore and coal. The ministry said general cargo handling declined but did not give precise figures.

Container traffic during April-December 1991 amounted to 5.2 million tons, a decline of 13.2 percent from the same period of 1990.