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Wednesday, Sep 08, 2004

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JNPT to curb arrival of metal scrap containers for 2 months

Santanu Sanyal

Shipping lines have been told not to entertain containers with scraps for unloading at JNPT/ NSICT for onward movement by train to the North.

Kolkata , Sept. 7

THE Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) is mulling restriction on the arrival of imported containers with metal scraps in all its terminals including NSICT (Nhava Sheva International Container Terminal). The restriction, due to be effective from September 15, is likely to be in force for two months.

This follows huge accumulation of imported containers within the port premises, giving rise to what is called "pendency problem" in the port. Nearly 9,000 containers, about 50 per cent of which is in NSICT alone, are believed to be lying uncleared within the port premises. Never in the past few months, the accumulation figure dropped below 5,000 TEUs at any point of time.

The decision on restriction was taken about a month ago at a meeting in the Commerce Ministry. Following the meeting, the shipping lines were told not to entertain in next one month any more contract for containers with scraps for unloading at JNPT/ NSICT for onward movement by train to the North India particularly Ludhiana in Punjab.

The Container Corporation of India's (Concor's) Ludhiana ICD (inland container depot) is just unable to handle the increased volume of traffic. This problem is addition to the usual congestion problem at the port end. NSICT has already indicated to the trade that it will handle only 40 per cent of the ICD throughputs handled so far. The accumulation of imported containers is also standing in the way of smooth outflow of export containers, so much so that several exporters are believed to have complained about their consignments missing sailings.

The jump in metal scrap arrival has been caused by the drop in the availability of the material locally. Fewer ships are coming to Indian ship-breaking yards than before following the boom in the shipping freight. Fewer ships than before are being offered for demolition. Even the ships fit for demolition are being operated as far as possible for earnings. At the same time, the Union Government has eased the duty on the imports. Mandi Govindgarh near Ludhiana is believed to be home of a large number of furnaces using scraps for producing steel needed by innumerable small and medium industries located in the region. As a result, large quantities of scraps are being imported not only from the neighbouring West Asia Gulf but also distant places like Africa, Europe and even Latin America.

Concor had urged the importers to receive the materials at its ICDs located near Delhi such as Tughlakabad or Dadri. However, the importers are reluctant, presumably because such an exercise will involve additional road transportation. The proposal for the routing of the imports through other ports such as Visakhapatnam port on the east coast too has been suggested.

Concor sources do not see any major improvement in the present situation in the foreseeable future unless the port authorities, both JNPT and NSICT authorities, take corrective measures.

On its part, Concor is working on the doubling of the present line keeping the third terminal at NSICT in view. Concor in partnership with Maersk will have the third terminal built and operated. There is a proposal for laying additional lines railway lines in view of the proposed fourth terminal.

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