More large container ships are expected to start calling at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) following the recent completion of harbor dredging project that deepened the fairway of India’s busiest container port from 14 m to 15 m (about 50 ft).
“The port is now geared up to navigate new-generation container vessels, and this [deepening] will help JNPT increase its handling capacity, facilitate growth of the Indian trade through optimal utilization of capacity, and provide economic benefits to exim [export-import] trade through faster turnaround times,” the port authority said in a statement Monday.
The dredging program, made possible by a public investment of about Rs.2,000 crore ($282 million), was aimed primarily at supporting PSA International’s new 4.8 million TEU terminal, the first phase of which became operational in February 2018, as well as anticipated demand growth. After a competitive bidding process, JNPT in early 2017 awarded the dredging contract to a consortium of Jan Del Nul and Royal Boskalis Westerminister, which began work in September of the same year. The project involved widening the port’s main access channel from 370 m (1,214 ft) to 450 m and extending it from 33.5 km (21 miles) to 35.5 km, in order to match the required depth.
The upgrade will allow JNPT to handle vessels with a capacity of 12,500 TEU without tidal restrictions. Prior to the completion of the project, the largest ship call at the port was the 13,800 TEU MSC Cristina, which was also the largest to ever visit any port in India when it docked at DP World’s Nhava Sheva (India) Gateway Terminal (NSIGT) on April 1, 2016.
Many of the mainline weekly services currently calling at JNPT deploy the latest generation of container vessels, with capacities ranging between 10,000 TEU and 13,000 TEU. Mediterranean Shipping, for example, offers weekly calls at NSIGT on its independent Himalaya Express (HEX) service between India and Europe, which operates with eight vessels of around 13,000 TEU. NSIGT even set a new productivity record with a Feb. 6 call from the 13,092-TEU MSC Perle, deployed on the HEX. Similarly, PSA’s Bharat Mumbai Container Terminal (BMCT) in December hit an efficiency milestone while servicing the 9,954 TEU MV Athenian, one of eight vessels used in Hapag-Lloyd, CMA CGM, and Cosco Shipping’s joint EPIC2/Indian Ocean service connecting India and the Middle East with North Europe and the Mediterranean.
An evolving sector
As call sizes grow, ports run the risk of cargo buildups causing harbor congestion if adequate landside infrastructure is not in place to efficiently handle those increasingly dense shipment volumes. Officials at JNPT, however, remain upbeat about their ability to meet those challenges, having embarked on an array of infrastructure improvements aimed at increasing inland connectivity. These include an integrated common rail yard for all terminals, a rail link to the new PSA facility, a third rail corridor between JNPT and the Jasai rail station, refurbishment of connecting highways, centralized parking lots for trucks, a coastal cargo berth, backup yard improvements, and an inland/dry port at Wardha, about 500 miles away in the country’s interior, for hinterland cargo aggregation and distribution.
“The international maritime sector is evolving rapidly and the business demands are constantly changing and hence it is imperative that we also develop our capabilities to stay ahead in the competitive market,” said Sanjay Sethi, JNPT’s newly appointed chairman.
The port and other stakeholders have also been investing in service improvements through more digital solutions, such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology-based gate systems, and other programs aimed at making it as easy as possible to get containers in and out of terminals.
In addition, a bevy of other operating reforms are in various stages of stakeholder consultations. These include plans to standardize carting hours for export cargo from the current four days to three days at all terminals and slash free storage time allowed for all railed cargo to and from inland container depots (ICDs) from the current seven days to three days. Thanks to those efforts, terminals have decreased container dwell times considerably in recent months, particularly on the import side.
JNPT handles the majority of India’s containerized trade, and with the emerging market economy expanding at a healthy pace, the government will continue to look for ways to further streamline operations at the port to keep regional supply chains running smoothly.