London / New Delhi: The speed with which large, private, fully mechanized ports are springing up in India is making coal producers and traders think again.
Suppliers had until recently doubted India could import the coal it will need because most of its ports were small and shallow, and government expansions were running late.
The international perception of India’s coal ports has been of a collection of mostly small, old, terminals which cannot take standard 150,000 tonne capesize vessels but are mostly limited to 50,000-75,000-tonne panamaxes or handysizes.
These small ports can take up to a week to discharge, are plagued by delays and have poor road and rail links to end users. But the slew of private ports under construction or expansion and their sheer size has taken the international coal market by surprise.
“We’re going to have to revise our projections for Indian coal imports and look at the impact of the ports being built,” said John Kearsey, head of research at shipbrokers Simon Spence and Young Ltd.
India will need more imported coal to make up for its domestic shortfall for the next 20 years. In 2010-2011 India will import 81 million tonnes (mt).
“Indian and Chinese coal demand is a significant driver behind our forecast for dry bulk demand growth over the next few years,” said Will Fray, shipping analyst with London-based consultants Maritime Strategies International Ltd (MSI). “Together we expect them to account for over 50% of global incremental seaborne coal imports over this period,” he added.
India is fully geared up to handle its coal import requirements by 2012, said a spokesman for the Adani Group, India’s largest coal importer.
“Adani Group itself will have fully-mechanized capacity to handle close to 90 mt of coal at various ports, including its Mundra terminal, which will take 60 mt alone,” the spokesman said.
Krishnapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh is one of the new state-of-the-art cape ports and will be able to take in more coal than South Africa’s total 2009 exports by end-2011.
Gangavaram, also on the east coast, is already taking capes and will soon be able to import 35 mt coal.
“The long-held dream of capesize discharging at India has now become a reality and volumes will continue to increase,” said Stuart Frost of shipbrokers Lorentzen and Stemoco AS.
These are two on a long list of ports being built by private firms in partnership with government, which will dramatically speed up India’s ability to import coal and open up the market to suppliers who need efficient logistics on the demand side.
“All the Indian ports are getting a facelift but there are a lot of excellent new ports such as Mundra, Reva, Gangavaram and Krishnapatnam which have worked their logistical connections right,” said ports consultant Poul Jensen.