Logistics

Indian box terminals yet to catch up with global counterparts

T. E. Raja Simhan | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on January 15, 2012

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Container being loaded onto a truck at the DP World Chennai container terminal.(file photo) - Bijoy Ghosh   -  Bijoy Ghosh

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Global container terminal operators in India claim productivity depends on factors beyond their control.



After India's container terminals were privatised more than a decade back, the efficiency and productivity in these terminals have been keenly watched by many in the shipping industry globally.

And, going by the data provided by the Shipping Ministry, terminals in India are not on par with those abroad. This is despite that the terminals are operated by global players.

Container vessels are sophisticated and expensive. They need efficient container-handling equipment to ensure quick turnaround time. Hence, many innovative methods and handling systems have been introduced to achieve higher productivity in a container terminal. As a consequence, monitoring of terminal performance is important and done by watching the performance of shore cranes.

One of the best parameters for the purpose is average moves for a crane-hour (Table 1). Associated and derivative parameters like number of moves an hour (the total moves of all cranes working for a vessel, also known as vessel throughput an hour), terminal throughput (the total twenty-ft equivalent units handled by the terminal in a day) and yard productivity (the number of containers handled in a yard) have also emerged.

Unfeasible benchmarks

The background paper from the Working Group for Strengthening of Major Port Statistics of the Ministry says there is a difference in three chief performance indicators — crane productivity, container evacuation rate and turnaround time between major Indian ports and Singapore and Rotterdam. If the productivity parameters are expanded from turnaround time to dwell time and compared with the Port of Singapore, in general terms, the position emerges as shown in Table 2.

However, these variations depend on several factors, such as availability of terminals for handling containers; area available for terminals at ports; expansion or construction constraints; draft available at berth and in channel; availability of equipment; and volume of cargo and level of mechanisation.

The Working Group, having considered variations, said benchmarking of productivity and efficiency of Indian Major Ports against international ports is not feasible.

However, some in the shipping industry disagree with this observation. “The numbers clearly show that our terminals need to improve their efficiencies,” said an official of a leading shipping company who is not authorised to speak to the media.

External problems

Although global container terminal operators are present in India, they are stymied by constraints within major ports, which constrain their efficiency indicators, said Mr K. Ravichandran, Senior Vice-President of ICRA Ltd and an expert on the shipping sector. Evacuation of containers is not speedily done in several yards because of either lower number of container trains calling at the port or congestion on the road side, he adds. This in turn leads to more dwell time; besides, some operators offer more free dwell time for containers, which comes in the way of speedier turnaround.

Other factors, which could constrain such comparisons, are the small parcel size of container ships handled at the ports, single lifts and mismatches in laden/empty containers mix, he said.

Mr S.S. Kulkarni, Secretary-General, Indian Private Ports & Terminals Association, said global operators would always want to see the performance of all their terminals on par. Howsoever this may be desired, terminal productivity is a function of many factors, including port connectivity and other infrastructure challenges at each port and local labour norms. These, the operators rightly claim, are beyond their control.

The capacity constraint at Jawaharlal Nehru port's container yard is infamous. Nhava Sheva International Container Terminal has been crying for little more space. Unfortunately the concessionaire agreement does not provide for such eventualities, he said.

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Published on January 15, 2012
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