India’s dozen State-owned ports handled a combined 704.63 million tonnes (mt) of cargo in the year to March 2020, registering a paltry growth of about 0.8 per cent, the slowest in eight years.

Despite the tardy operational performance, the 12 so-called major port trusts were able to hold on to its last year volumes and even surpass it by about 5 mt in a challenging year that was marked by global and local economic headwinds and the outbreak of the coronavirus, clipping global trade.

These 12 ports have a capacity to handle 1,524.91 mt of cargo a year and the FY20 cargo throughput translates into a capacity utilisation of 46.2 per cent. The existing capacity would thus be able to cater to growth till at least 2025, according to industry sources. In FY19, the 12 ports handled 699.10 mt of cargo including containers — registering a growth of 2.9 per cent over the 679.37 mt handled in FY18.

The last time the 12 ports posted a decline in volumes was in FY12 when it handled 560.14 mt, down from 570.03 mt in FY11. Since then, these ports have picked up momentum.

Deendayal Port Trust (formerly Kandla Port Trust) located in Gujarat handled 122.50 mt of cargo in FY20 from 115.40 mt in FY19, retaining the pole position among the 12 ports.

Paradip Port Trust located in Orissa, handled 112.67 mt (109.28 mt) of cargo in FY20.

The total cargo handled by Mumbai’s Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), India’s biggest container port, declined to 68.45 mt (70.71 mt). Chennai Port Trust registered a 11.8 per cent drop in cargo volumes to 46.7 mt (53 mt).