Mumbai: Container cargo handled between April and November by the 12 ports owned by the Union government has bounced back to pre-downturn levels, but the advantage has been neutralized by a steep decline in iron ore loadings.
The ports handled 4.99 million standard containers in the period, a growth of 12.4% over the 4.44 million standard containers loaded a year ago, according to Indian Ports Association (IPA), a body representing the 12 ports.
Of this, Jawaharlal Nehru port, India’s busiest container port, handled 2.83 million containers, up from 2.63 million containers a year earlier.
Port container traffic in India, the world’s second fastest growing major economy, was expanding at an average of 15% a year between 2004 and 2008, but shrank to single digits during the slowdown of 2008-09.
The container industry, a key indicator of economic growth, is considered to be in a much healthier state than the oil tanker and dry bulk markets, which were plagued by oversupply of vessels and limited demand.
Nikhil Jain, an assistant research manager at shipping consultancy Drewry Maritime Services Pvt. Ltd, attributed the growth in container volumes to replenishment of stocks by retailers in the West.
“Throughout 2009, the container market was very dull,” he said. “The market is very good now.” Drewry Maritime is the Indian unit of London-based Drewry Shipping Consultants Ltd.
Iron ore volumes, though, tanked 15.4% to 50.36 million tonnes between April and November—the fallout of a ban on exporting the steel-making commodity by the Karnataka government to curb illegal mining in the mineral-rich Bellary-Hospet belt.
Karnataka is the second largest producer of iron ore in the country at 46 million tonnes, of which it exported about 20 million tonnes in the year to 31 March.
India’s overall iron ore production was 226 mt in 2009-10, of which it exported 117 mt.
In 2009-10, the 12 ports loaded 99.91 mt of iron ore, 6.25% more than in the previous fiscal year.