Activists' blockade briefly halts JNPT container movement

Activists' blockade briefly halts JNPT container movement

Containers at a port.

Jawharlal Nehru Port Trust handles the majority of India’s container freight. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

A long-simmering impasse over resettlement and compensation by project-affected citizens at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) — involving local citizens who had surrendered land for the port’s development — has jarred trade stakeholders after a period of relative calm and seamless operations via accelerated proactive/coordinated efforts.

Protesters Wednesday morning blocked all access points to JNPT, bringing container movement to a halt. The stoppage was tentatively called off later in the day, after authorities agreed to hold talks with demonstrators on Oct. 10 regarding a new package deal.

“This [the demonstration] has resulted in a standstill of import and export operations at Nhava Sheva [JNPT],” the Brihanmumbai Custom Brokers Association stated in a trade advisory.

Following a previous stoppage threat, authorities in January held out an olive branch to affected individuals, promising them jobs under new projects in the harbor — such as a fourth terminal awarded to PSA International and the port’s under-construction special economic zone (SEZ) program. However, the latest activist demonstration sends a clear signal that there are still many underlying issues left to be addressed. 

“JNPT is firmly dedicated to the inclusive growth and has been encouraging the employment of [the] local population to the maximum capacity. Our endeavor is to make sure that all eligible people from the local area who are employable are accommodated,” authorities earlier stated. There was no official statement Wednesday, however.

JNPT — key Asia gateway

JNPT handles the majority of India’s container freight and, as such, a breakdown of the shipping activity there will have major repercussions for the emerging market economy.

Moreover, that fact is all-the-more underscored by JNPT's accelerating growth. New statistics collected by JOC.com show September volume jumped 12.6 percent year over year to 431,018 TEU, whereas first-half (April-September) volume totaled 2.5 million TEU, up from 4.8 percent from 2.4 million TEU a year earlier.

Further, investors are showing renewed interest in new project developments at the port. One example: DP World’s local logistics arm Hindustan Infralog Pvt. Ltd. concluded the lease of 44 acres of land within JNPT’s SEZ project, involving an investment of Rs. 566.3 crore ($76 million).

“We are seeing extremely positive response from the investor community [manufacturing companies, industrial park developers, logistics companies, and private equity players] for land parcels in this SEZ, primarily because of the geo-centric advantage and its connectivity to domestic as well as international markets being close to Mumbai, the economic capital of India,” JNPT stated in a release.