Mumbai: More than 50,000 cargo containers are held up at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, or JNPT, in part because the port has not been able to cope with an increase intrade volumes through its gates, officials at the ports terminals said.
The backlog at India’s largest container port, which handles about 60% of the container traffic in the country, is hurting the country’s international trade and signalling more severe capacity constraints ahead, according to representatives of export houses using the port.
JNPT, popularly known as Nhava Sheva port, has three terminals: JNP container terminal operated by JNPT, Nhava Sheva International Container Terminal, or NSICT, run by DP World, and Gateway Terminals of India Pvt. Ltd, or GTI, run by Maersk India and Container Corp. of India Ltd.
The port handled 4.06 million 20ft containers in fiscal 2007-08, up from 3.30 million during 2006-07. Of this, the JNPT container terminal handled 1.26 million 20ft containers, while NSICT handled 1.51 million and GTI handled 1.29 million containers.
JNPT’s terminal has a backlog of 16,943 20ft containers; NSICT has 15,758 units; and GTI, 16,824 containers.
This is showing up in a variety of ways: ship delays, omitted vessel calls, shut-outs of exports, delays in imports, and choked yards. There is less anchoring time for ships at the berths, which have not been able to handle the increased trade. “Many ships miss their berths due to delayed arrivals (as a result of the capacity contraints) or because they are forced to bypass the port,” said K. Suryanarayan, a manager with Ocean Lines Maritime India Pvt. Ltd, which aggregates cargo for import and export through JNPT. “The vessels are not able to complete unloading of import cargo within the stipulated time and have to leave behind many export loading.”
He said the gates of the terminals are closed randomly without information, which adds to the piling up of cargo at the port and, in the case of exports, leads to missing the order deadlines of international clients.
There is also severe container backlog at the Central Warehousing Corporation of India Ltd, or CWC, a state-run warehousing firm that is the sole handling agency for aggregating the cargo, popularly known as less than a load container, or LCL. For those who cannot give the full load of the container, CWC collects cargo in small portions and makes it a full cargo.
“CWC at the JNPT area has pendency in excess of 800 containers awaiting movement for the ports. The inefficient equipment and shortage of top loaders and forklifts have added to the already existing woes of the consolidators,” Suryanarayan said.
A senior JNPT executive, who did not want to be named, said, “The condition is under control.” An NSICT executive also said the backlog “has drastically come down to a mangeable limit”.
Prakash Tulsiani, chief operating office of GTI, admitted that there is significant increase in the volume of trade through JNPT but said there was no congestion at this terminal, which he said is even accepting ships that are not its customers.
However, R. Radhakrishnan, president of the Bombay Customs House Agents’ Association, said the situation at JNPT was a nightmare.
The impact of this is multifold. Ships will have to leave containers behind at the port, creating more congestion and forcing exporters to miss orders from international clients, he said. “If this is the situation in summer, it will worsen during monsoons, which is known to add to delays and congestion at the ports.”
Julian Bevis, chairman, Container Shipping Lines Association (India), a lobbying body for shipping lines, said the congestion at JNPT would be an economic stumbling block when the country is progressing, with increased interest in international trade.
According to statistics from the ministry of commerce and industry, India’s exports during February were valued at $14.24 billion, up 35.25% over a year ago. India’s imports during February were valued at $18.47 billion, a rise of 30.53% over the level of imports in the year-ago period.