The making of a regional hub

Published : Jun 20, 2003 00:00 IST

The ability to respond and adapt to changing needs in the industry is the key to the success of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port.

THE Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust was commissioned in May 1989 at a total project cost of Rs.1,109.52 crores. It was built in order to provide modern handling facilities for container and dry bulk (fertilizer and foodgrain) traffic. The existing Mumbai port had been unable to handle the volume of traffic owing to draught limitations and physical constraints. In any case, the strain that the handling of a growing volume of bulk cargo would inevitably have put on an older port would have been unmanageable.

The port essentially comprises a container terminal, a bulk terminal, a liquid cargo jetty and a multipurpose berth. Its total cargo capacity is around 25 million tonnes. Rising traffic has meant an increase in income: it rose from Rs.29.18 crores in 1989-90 to Rs.489.66 crores (provisional figure) in 2001-02.

Right from the start, the volume of container traffic here exceeded the projections and the pace of growth is expected to continue. The volume of dry bulk traffic has, however, been declining, resulting in the under-utilisation of facilities. In order to accommodate the surge in container traffic, a separate terminal with a 600-metre-long berth was developed with private participation, involving P&O Ports Australia. The outcome was the creation of the Nhava Sheva International Container Terminal (NSICT). The terminal, operational since 1999, achieved high productivity and faster turnaround time for vessel operations. This also helped the Jawaharlal Nehru Port to improve its performance.

In its 14-year history, the port has had many landmark achievements. It has had the highest growth rate in terms of cargo-handling among Indian ports. During 2001-02 it handled 22.65 million tonnes of cargo against a target of 20.70 million tonnes set by the Ministry of Shipping, registering a growth rate of 21.95 per cent. The port has a growing capacity to handle dry bulk, liquid and other general cargo. In 2001-02, it handled 2,142 vessels; the figure was 1,706 in the previous year.

These and other achievements have enabled it to emerge as a regional container hub. There are many reasons for its phenomenal growth. The level of success of a hub port is determined by the level of connectivity by road, rail and sea. The port is located across the harbour from Mumbai. It is connected to the National Highways that lead to such centres as Pune, Goa, Nashik, Ahmedabad and the major industrial town of Thane. The western coast of India has traditionally dominated in the matter of container traffic, accounting for about 70 per cent of such traffic. A large part of it passes through the Mumbai port, the Jawaharlal Nehru Port and the NSICT. In recent years there has been a concentration of traffic at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, where about 40 per cent of the container traffic in India is being handled.

The construction of the NSICT added a new dimension to the operation of ports in India. It was developed with participation by P&O Ports Australia. The formal signing of the agreement for this purpose took place in July 1997. It was the first demonstration of successful private sector participation in the port sector in India. It involves a 30-year concession on a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis at an estimated cost of Rs.1,000 crores. The construction and commissioning of the terminal saw the shortest possible lead-time for a project of such dimensions. The terminal has a capacity of 1.1 million TEUs and is capable of handling fifth-generation container ships with their extra width and draught. P&O also won the contract to manage the Chennai port's container terminal.

The NSICT and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port together provide 1,300 metres of quay line. Economies of scale ensure that the hub port can compete effectively with other leading ports in the Asian region. A draught of 14 to 16 m with a back-up area extending to 70 hectares ensures that mainline ships will call regularly at the port.

Speedier customs clearance procedures and double-line train movement facilities to inland container depots and inland destinations will need to be ensured in order to compete successfully in international terms.

With an anticipated growth of 30 per cent, the Jawaharlal Nehru Port is expected to cross the figure of 2 million TEUs by 2005. Hence it was thought necessary to create additional facilities to handle the increased traffic.

Part of the reason for the port's success is its ability to respond and adapt to changing needs. The plans to convert the bulk terminal into a container terminal, deepen the channel and create a marine chemical terminal constitute moves towards diversification. In the context of plans for the further development of the port and its infrastructure, the role of a number of private players who are active in allied sectors important.

For instance, the ABG Group has business interests that cover the areas of port and infrastructure development, ship building and repair, engineering and construction. ABG Shipyard is India's largest ship builder and charter hirer in the private sector. It has built and delivered 30 vessels in the past five years. The shipyard has the experience and capability to build cellular container ships, bulk carriers, tug boats, cement carriers, floating cranes and other specialised heavy equipment.

The facilities are located at Surat and in Mumbai. The shipyard also has an integrated ship repair complex with a modern ship lift facility. The yard has built up a reputation for handling complex ship repair needs with a quick turnaround time. ABG's ship building and ship repair services are provided on a total turnkey basis from concept to detail design, fabrication, construction, installation and commissioning.

ABG also operates, maintains and hires heavy duty equipment to a wide spectrum of industries. The company undertakes erection and construction jobs for projects in the steel, cement, power, petrochemical, refining and fertilizer industries.

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