Iron ore exports run into snags at ports

Iron ore exports run into snags at ports

Mumbai: India’s iron ore exports may fall by as much as 5%, or 5 million tonnes (mt) this year due to problems at three major loading ports at Mormugao, Paradip and Visakhapatnam, says a Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association official.

“The overall export of iron ore may decline by about 5mt this year due to various port problems, an extended monsoon in Goa and bottlenecks in the movement of the commodity from origin to the export port," said S. Sridhar, executive director of association.

Goa accounted for more than 43%, or 40.53mt, of India’s total exports of 93.79mt of ore in the 12 months to March. Out of this, the Union government-run Mormugao port handled 26.56mt, while the state government-owned Panjim port handled 13.97mt.

The months between October and March are the peak exporting months, but exporters are facing a technical snag at Mormugao’s mechanical ore handling plant, which has “reduced the loading capacity by almost 50%," said Sridhar.

One of the two shiploaders, with a capacity to handle 4,000 tonnes per hour, has been out of action since July and is unlikely to be operational till December, said an official at Mormugao port who did not wish to be named.

Every year, beginning 15 July, the plant at Mormugao is shut for routine maintenance work. This coincides with the monsoon, which is also when mines take a two-month break.

From the time the ore handling plant resumed operations on 15 September till 1 December when the second shiploader is likely to resume work, Mormugao will likely have handled only 1.17mt of iron ore compared with the 2.53mt ore it handled in the year-ago period. Hence, exports will fall by 1.36mt in the same period, the official said.

Machinery outages have also taken their toll at Paradip port on the country’s east coast, which shipped 11.94mt of iron ore during 2006-07.

“Though the situation has improved recently in Paradip, the problems at the two ports have combined to reduce the quantity of ore exported from India by as much as 1.5mt a month," wrote UK-based shipbroker Braemar Seascope in its weekly ship chartering report dated 1 November.

Vizag port has decided not to berth iron ore vessels from 1 November that are unable to load an average of 1,500 tonnes per hour in outer berths 1&2 as this causes congestion. In a separate circular dated 2 November, the port said it would allow a maximum of two iron ore vessels at a time for manual loading at its inner harbour berths.

Ships not sure of achieving a minimum loading rate of 10,000 tonnes per day would not be considered for allotment of berths at all, the circular said. Exporters shipped 5.42mt of ore through Vizag port in 2006-07.