Bangalore: In a telling indicator of slowing international trade, goods handled at India’s busiest container port fell as much as 11% in the fiscal year ended 31 March, compared with the preceding fiscal.
The state-owned Jawaharlal Nehru Port at Nava Sheva near Mumbai, which accounts for almost 60% of the container cargo traffic in India, handled 3.95 million standard containers in fiscal 2009, a port official said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The port handled 4.06 million standard containers in the year ended March 2008, which was a growth of 23% over the previous fiscal.
“The impact of collapsing US and European consumer spending has hit India’s exports and in turn the container volumes at ports,” said Shailesh Garg, general manager at the India unit of London-based maritime adviser Drewry Shipping Consultants Ltd. “This is in line with the global trend.” Most of the world’s freight moves in steel containers.
The port has three container cargo handling facilities designed to handle 3.6 million standard containers a year. Of these, one is run by Dubai government-owned DP World Ltd, the world’s fourth-largest container port operator, another by the port itself, and the third by a consortium comprising APM Terminals Management BV and state-owned Container Corp. of India Ltd (Concor). APM Terminals is the container terminal operating unit of Danish shipping and oil conglomerate AP Moller-Maersk.
However, only the terminals run by the port and DP World recorded lower volumes, while the APM Terminals-Concor consortium notched higher volumes over the fiscal year ended March 2008.
The facility operated by the port handled 1.06 million standard containers against 1.26 million standard containers last fiscal, while the terminal run by DP World saw volumes fall to 1.43 million standard containers from 1.51 million. APM Terminals-Concor consortium handled 1.46 million standard containers, up from 1.29 million.
“The shrinking container volumes at Jawaharlal Nehru Port very clearly demonstrates the worsening economic climate globally,” said a Mumbai-based shipping analyst working for a global investment bank. He did not want to be named because of company policy on speaking to the media. India’s external trade is dominated by exports to western economies.
Drewry’s Garg said the port would struggle for container cargo in the first half of the new fiscal that began on Wednesday.
“We are expecting some recovery in the second half, but the growth rate may not be the same as seen in the past two-three years,” he said.