Chennai woes weigh on India public port growth

Chennai woes weigh on India public port growth

The port of Chennai, pictured, lost a Maersk Line call in April, which impacted its overall volumes in the first four months of the fiscal year.

Traffic at major, or public, Indian ports rose 4.1 percent in the first four months of the fiscal year, but growth would have been higher if Chennai hadn’t taken a steep hit in volumes, according to the newest port data analyzed by JOC.com.

The country’s 12 major ports handled a combined 2.84 million twenty-foot-equivalent units from April to July, up from 2.72 million TEUs a year earlier. Containerized tonnage edged up 0.65 percent year-over-year to 41.5 million tonnes (45.7 million tons), according to the data.

Volume at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust increased 1.2 percent year-over-year to 1.53 million TEUs from 1.51 million TEUs, commanding a 54 percent share of Indian containerized cargo shipped via major ports.  

By terminal, the latest figures were as follows: APM Terminals-managed Gateway Terminals India, down 6.9 percent from 636,831 TEUs to 592,875 TEUs; DP World Nhava Sheva, which includes two terminals, down 3 percent from 418,253 TEUs to 406,164 TEUs; and state-owned Jawaharlal Nehru Container Terminal, up 16.6 percent from 451,657 TEUs to 526,588 TEUs.

The Chennai port’s four-month volume fell nearly 7 percent year-over-year to 504,000 TEUs, reflecting how a shift of some cargo to nearby privately-operated minor ports is costing the public east coast harbor.  

During recent months Chennai and JNPT have worked to improve productivity and relieve off-and-on congestion. The JNPT authority and its private terminal operators have invested considerable amounts of money and effort in infrastructure upgrades, including automation of cargo processes, improving roads, building more parking lots for drayage and most importantly, dredging the navigation channel to 50 feet, among other efforts.

Chennai has overcome much of its access problems thanks to radio-frequency technology-enabled gate systems and new rail connections, but the port administration will need to work aggressively to thwart private rivals’ attempts to poach its business while beefing up efforts to attract more ocean services.

According to the data, four-month container volumes at India’s other major ports were as follows: Kolkata, up 23 percent from 207,000 TEUs to 254,000 TEUs; Tuticorin, or V.O. Chidambaranar, up 5.5 percent from 206,000 TEUs to 217,000 TEUs; Cochin (Vallarpadam), up 21 percent from 131,000 TEUs to 158,000 TEUs; and Visakhapatnam, up 40 percent from 86,000 TEUs to 121,000 TEUs, according to the latest data.

The 12 major ports together handle roughly 70 percent of India’s overall containerized trade. Statistics show these state port complexes have been steadily losing market share to their smaller counterparts, or minor ports, which have modern infrastructure and ample capacity.