Mumbai: State-run Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), India’s busiest container gateway near Mumbai, is planning to build a satellite port at either Vijaydurg or Dahanu in Maharashtra for at least 10,000 crore.

JNPT and the Maharashtra government will hold 75% and 25% respectively in the proposed project, port chairman N.N. Kumar said in an interview on Sunday. “At both Vijaydurg and Dahanu, there is natural draught of 20 metres to receive bigger ships. A feasibility study for a satellite port has been completed internally. At present, there is only one big port in Maharashtra—JNPT—despite the fact that there is large industrial growth taking place in the state," Kumar said without disclosing the project’s time frame.

JNPT’s proposal comes at a time when the growth of the Indian economy is projected to touch 7.4% in the current fiscal year compared with 6.9% last year based on a new way of calculating gross domestic product (GDP). At this level, it is estimated to be on par with China, the fastest growing major economy in the world. It is also the first time that the economy is projected to be bigger than $2 trillion; India’s GDP is estimated to be $2.1 trillion in 2014-15, according to official data.

With the first three quarters’ economic growth numbers at 6.5%, 8.2% and 7.5% respectively, the data assumes that in the fourth quarter (January to March), GDP will grow at 7.5%. However, merchandise imports in January fell 11.4% to $32.2 billion while non-oil imports rose 3.45% to $24 billion.

“Maharashtra needs a large multi-purpose port considering the way the export-import trade is growing. At present, there is no big multipurpose port. JNPT is focused on containers while Mumbai Port is handling more on only liquid cargo. You need to handle coal and other cargoes for power plants and other industries for the Maharashtra state," Kumar said.

Mumbai Port, India’s oldest harbour, has not scaled up efforts to handle more cargo, as it is situated within city limits. Interestingly, JNPT was built to de-congest the 143-year old Mumbai Port. JNPT was built in 1989 outside Mumbai city near Nhava Sheva island. Mumbai port, once considered the country’s premier harbour, has about one-third of the total employees across all 13 major ports of India, but handles only 10% of the total traffic of these ports.

“JNPT is also getting congested. Once it builds its fourth container terminal, JNPT will get its entire waterfront exhausted. If JNPT has to grow as entity, it has to look outside for growth like any other company," said Atul C. Kulkarni, an independent maritime consultant.

Kulkarni said the government has given its port authorities guidelines to look out for further growth, as the market is growing.

“Nothing stops JNPT in joining hands with another government entity or a private company to augment cargo handling facilities and to invest in a port outside Nhava Sheva."

JNPT’s Kumar said funding should not be a problem for the port as it has got sufficient reserves. He said the proposed port will cater to entire Maharashtra, upper part of Karnataka, southern part of Gujarat and some parts of Goa.

At present, three big ports of Gujarat—Mundra, Pipavav and Kandla—are competing with Maharashtra ports for the cargo of western India hinterland.

Agents of leading shipping lines said cargo from Maharashtra often go to private sector ports in Gujarat due to congestion at JNPT. They said both Mundra and Pipavav in Gujarat are non-major ports or not under the control of centre, allowing them to fix their own rates unlike state-controlled major ports.

“The proposed satellite port is not to compete with other existing ports in Gujarat. There is sufficient cargo for everyone," Kumar added.

Close