JNPT rail volume stagnant despite port push

JNPT rail volume stagnant despite port push

Moving more volume by rail is seen as key to ensuring productivity at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Rail volume at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) was flat month to month at 16 percent as vigorous government efforts to move more cargo by rail to improve port productivity continue to struggle.

An increase to 17 percent in August made it seem as though efforts to boost rail traffic were paying off, but as more time has gone by it has become clear that is not the case.

By volume, October railed containers totaled 62,091 TEU, out of the port’s total monthly throughput of 382,529 TEU, versus 61,420 TEU and 382,868 TEU, respectively, in the previous month. JNPT’s over-the-road traffic share has been hovering around 83 percent through the year, and last month was no different, with trucks handling 316,401 TEU, the analysis shows.

Year-to-date statistics, from April to October, show rail volumes accounted for 15.2 percent, whereas that figure by road averaged 83.6 percent in the same period.

Radio-frequency identification services provider DMICDC Logistics Data Services in an analysis of JNPT bottlenecks highlighted that a long-time “mixed rail-handling” practice, rather than dedicated trains for each terminal, is one major factor impacting the truck-to-train freight conversion progress and causing longer dwell times in the harbor.  

“Mixed container stacking at [the] yard of a different terminal leads to challenges in retrieving the same and at times, leads to the possibility of containers missing the vessel and loss of revenue for the shipping line,” the agency stated in its report.  

To address those issues, JNPT and rail authorities are building an integrated rail yard for all terminals, which is expected to be ready toward the end of next year. Additionally, work is underway to establish a rail link to PSA International’s new fourth mega-terminal slated to open at the end of the year and a third rail corridor between JNPT and the Jasai railway station.

Although those steps are encouraging, authorities must ensure timely completion of such projects, as progress on many previous infrastructure schemes has been painfully slow, resulting in cost overruns and delays.

Despite some productivity gains through automation and other ease-of-doing-business measures, the pace of growth at JNPT has lost some momentum in the past two months after a strong start to the fiscal year, which does not bode well for the top port in the months ahead as competition from private rivals intensifies.

The newest port data show JNPT handled 2.8 million TEU in the April-to-October period, up 5.9 percent from 2.6 million TEU a year earlier. That slower-than-expected growth trend threatens a 4.8 million TEU target goal the port has drawn up for the current year, building on its all-time high of 4.5 million TEU in fiscal year 2016 to 2017 that ended in March.