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Cargo handling at major ports drops to 4-year low

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The sharp decline in export and import volumes consequent to a growth slowdown in the Indian economy has hit the country’s Central Government-controlled major ports, even while the so-called minor ports, mainly in Gujarat, have bucked the trend.

The fiscal ending March 2013 saw cargo handled by the 12 major ports shrink by 2.5 per cent, to 545 million tonnes (mt), from 561 mt in 2011-12. That makes it the lowest in last four years.

On the other hand, the likes of Mundra, Hazira and other ‘non-major’ ports, coming under the jurisdiction of Gujarat Government, registered a 13 per cent growth, handling 292 mt.

In other words, privately-operated ports in Gujarat alone handled over 53 per cent cargo handled by all ports. For major ports, this is the second consecutive year when they handled lower cargo than the previous year.

Within major ports, those that registered growth include Paradip, Ennore, New Mangalore and Mumbai.

Major ports handled about 60 per cent of cargo handled across ports, according to 2011-12 data.

Iron ore exports

“A sharp fall in iron ore exports has hit most of the major ports and even some non-major ports. Ban on iron ore exports from Karnataka has affected minor ports like Belekeri in Karnataka, which was handling cargo from the Bellary Hospet region,” said Shailesh Garg, Director, Drewry Consulting India.

“While drop in iron ore export cargo has pulled down many major ports, Gujarat ports are benefiting from liquid cargo and coal. Ports in Gujarat serve refineries in the West and North. Major ports traffic continues to be hit by competition from non-major ports,” echoed Anand V. Sharma, Director, Mantrana Maritime Advisory.

Drewry’s Garg attributed the growth of Gujarat ports largely to Mundra port, which has benefited from capacity constraint at JN port coupled with new capacity development at Mundra.

Within ports in Gujarat, cargo at Mundra Port, handled by listed firm Adani Port SEZ, registered a whopping 33 per cent growth. “In Mundra, we handled 83 mt cargo in fiscal 2012-13 against 62 mt in 2011-12,” Rajeeva Sinha, Director, Adani Port SEZ, said.

(This article was published on April 8, 2013)
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