Port of promise

Print edition : June 20, 2003

The container yard at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai. The JNPT is ranked among the top 35 container ports in the world. - SHASHI ASHIWAL

The Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai, India's most modern port, is expanding and diversifying its facilities and services in order to consolidate its position as a hub of trans-shipment and container cargo traffic that is well-placed to cut shipping costs and delays.

THE Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai is one of two ports identified by the Government of India for development as trans-shipment hubs. The other one is the Chennai port. For this purpose, the Jawaharlal Nehru Port has launched several plans and projects. Keeping in view the trends in the industry, it is realised that the main part of the business for the port will come from container and liquid traffic.

It is estimated that 80 per cent of the container cargo at this port is shipped `directly to destination', while 20 per cent is trans-shipped. The reverse is the case with most of the other ports in the country. There is direct sailing on a weekly basis from this port to several destinations in the United States, Europe, Japan, Korea and China. Thus, the question of detours or delays at trans-shipment hubs does not arise. This fact provides the Jawaharlal Nehru Port the potential to sweep into its fold a sizable volume of trans-shipment cargo from the region. About 80 per cent of the container cargo from India is trans-shipped, usually through Colombo, Dubai or Singapore. A large proportion of this cargo, especially that originating from the western and northwestern industrial belts of the country, could pass through the Jawaharlal Nehru Port instead. The port could also serve as a trans-shipment hub for cargo from ports in the neighbouring countries, notably Karachi and some of the West Asian ports.

The Ministry of Shipping set up a committee headed by A. Bongirwar, who was then Chairman of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), to examine issues relevant to encouraging trans-shipment from the port. As part of its recommendations, the committee has touched upon aspects ranging from infrastructure to subsidiary matters such as liberalisation of customs.

The Jawaharlal Nehru Port is already India's most modern port. Ranked among the top 35 container ports in the world, it is the only one in the country that has crossed the figure of 1.5 million TEUs (twenty foot equitable units) in cargo handling. During the last financial year, the port handled a total of 1.57 million TEUs (representing a growth of 31.86 per cent over the previous year), and accounted for 54.28 per cent of containerised cargo.

Not counting the contribution of the Nhava Sheva International Container Terminal (NSICT), the container terminal of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port handled 6.3 lakh TEUs during 2001-2002, exceeding the targets set for it and registering a growth of 27.25 per cent during the year. The turnaround time here for container vessels is 1.04 days. The Tenth Five Year Plan target for traffic-handling at the port is over 13 lakh tonnes for 2006-2007.

The Jawaharlal Nehru Port shares a continuous quay line with the NSICT, and together they can draw synergies from the 1,300-m quay line to turn the port into an international trans-shipment hub. The port has been granted ISO 9002/1994 certification by the Registrar of Quality Marks. Its customer-friendly growth strategies include expansion of facilities and better access to the hinterland that can be served by it.

THE principal project of the port is the conversion of its bulk terminal, which is under-utilised, into a container terminal. With the redevelopment of the bulk terminal the port will be able to handle around 2.7 million TEUs by 2006. This project will also involve the widening of the bulk berths and their approaches, developing container yards in the back-up area and making provision for equipment for operations. The project is estimated to cost between Rs.800 crores and Rs.900 crores. The work is likely to start during the current financial year.

There are plans to develop an integrated marine chemical terminal to handle LNG and all grades of liquid chemicals. The building of one LNG berth and six offshore berths as well as the reclamation of 100 hectares of land for tank farms and other facilities have been planned in two phases. The liquid cargo will be evacuated by rail and road as well as through pipelines. Except for the LNG berth, the environmental clearance has come. The estimated cost of the first phase is Rs.2,500 crores. It is to be taken up this year and completed in 42 months. This phase will provide for the handling of 3 million tonnes of LNG and 6 million tonnes of POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants). Global bids will be invited on a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis.

India's most modern, state-of-the-art liquid cargo handling facility has been set up at the port, under a joint venture arrangement between the public sector companies Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Indian Oil Corporation and others. The facility consists of twin-berths that can accommodate 30,000 to 50,000 DWT (dead weight tonnes) vessels, a 22-pipeline rack, fire-fighting facilities and six 12-inch diameter loading arms with a capacity of 1,500 kilolitres an hour. The project, carried out on BOT basis, is ready for use.

Ravi Bhushan Budhiraja, the Chairman of JNPT.-SHASHI ASHIWAL

The port shares the 22.5-km-long main harbour channel with the Mumbai port. The Mumbai harbour channel has a depth of a little less than 11 metres below chart datum (bcd), and the 7.2-km-long Jawaharlal Nehru Port channel has around the same depth. Large vessels with draughts up to 12.5 m navigate the channels only by taking advantage of the tidal window. With vessels getting larger, good draught availability will be an important attraction for shipping lines, which are now plying huge, 5,000 to 6,000 TEU vessels with a draught of 14 m and more. If large vessels cannot enter the port, resort to feeder operations will also drive up their costs. The Jawaharlal Nehru Port channel is going to be deepened and widened. The capital cost is Rs.700 crores, and the maintenance cost is expected to be Rs.55 crores a year. This project also will be undertaken during the current financial year.

The port now has eight quay cranes, 27 rubber-tyred gantry (RTG) cranes and three rail-mounted gantry (RMG) cranes Two super post-Panamax-size rail-mounted quayside cranes have been positioned. The shallow water feeder berth with the design capacity projected at 1.5 million tonnes a year, will be commissioned soon. Although the Jawaharlal Nehru Port is emerging as a dedicated container handling port, it will be suitable also for dry bulk, liquid chemicals, car-carriers, edible oils, break bulk and project cargo. The existing six container freight stations (CFSs) may be sufficient to meet requirements up to 2005: `Warehousing tasks'). Storage tank farms will take care of liquid storage requirements. The creation of a Special Economic Zone at Dronagiri will aid the development of business.

Most of the expansion projects will be financed out of the port's own resources. However, resort to external borrowing may be required to finance in part the widening and deepening of the channels and some of the berths. The port has financed the laying of railway lines inside its area. These assets have been handed over to the Indian Railways for operation and maintenance.

The port has permitted the Container Corporation of India (Concor) to undertake container handling operations at certain locations. Concor is developing a container terminal at Dronagiri. This should supplement the handling facilities at the port and provide stuffing and destuffing facilities that are much in demand. There is scope to improve container dispatches by rail and road. With the cooperation of the Railways and Concor, there are plans to reduce the average container handling time from seven to eight hours now, to two to three hours. Concor has procured 41 container rakes, each of which can carry 90 TEUs. Concor will augment the rake count to 60. The rakes run at a maximum speed of 100 kmph and are called "Container Rajdhanis". The stretch of tracks between the Panvel rail junction and the port will be doubled in two to three years. Panvel is connected to the Konkan Railway system. The track is also connected, through Diva station, to the Central Railway system and, through Vasai station, to the Western Railway system. Central Railway is planning a rail network crossing the three lines. The port will then handle 18 trains a day, up from the current number of 12.

The port is connected by means of National Highway 4-B to the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and to the Mumbai-Goa NH 17. It is also connected to State Highway 54 that leads through New Mumbai to Thane, Nashik and Ahmedabad. Road connectivity will be improved by converting into a four-lane highway the existing two-lane NH 4-B running from the port to the Mumbai-Pune expressway. SH 54 will be converted into a four-lane route up to the junction of the Sion-Panvel highway near Belapur in Navi Mumbai. A special purpose vehicle (SPV) has been formed for the national highway projects, with the National Highways Authority of India, the JNPT and the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra (CIDCO) putting in Rs.97 crores, Rs.40 crores and Rs.9 crores respectively. The remaining funds are to come as loans from financial institutions and banks. The costs will be recovered through toll charges. The port is connected by road to 23 inland container depots. East coast to west coast trans-shipment plans are being drawn up, with Concor and the Railways floating a "bridge concept" among the Jawaharlal Nehru Port and the ports in Chennai, Kolkata and Haldia.

There is a shortage of pilots and dock masters, with no matching increase in the number of posts permitted by the Ministry of Shipping. This situation has persuaded the Jawaharlal Nehru Port to consider hiring the personnel on contract basis.

The port handles fourth and fifth generation vessels with a draught of 12.5 m. Its approach is quite systematic; it sends its pilots to Rotterdam in the Netherlands for training on simulators. Senior pilots have been sent to the ports of Salalah and Jebel Ali for training. Earlier, pilots had to provide only local knowledge to the vessel masters. Now they have to work closely with the bridge team to coordinate port services and )pilot vessels safely through the port. Pilots at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port also undergo a bridge resources management course.

The port has been quick to adopt technologies. New invoicing applications and computerisation of container billing and CFS management for import activities have been adopted. Billing details can be sent to shipping agents by e-mail. The company website has been redesigned according to the specifications of the Ministry and the site is updated twice a day indicating vessel positions. It is the first Indian port to have such a website.

The electronic clearing service operation is utilised for the payment of emoluments to employees. There is an Intranet application for information-sharing among various departments. Online information is available for container-tracking. The port has implemented electronic data interface (EDI) and messaging with trading partners and the shipping community. Another EDI for sharing information on export and import cycles with the Customs Department is almost ready. Other projects under implementation include the provision of radio data terminals, computerisation of the port hospital, office automation and upgradation and improvement of communication facilities. An important project under implementation will allow EDI message exchanges between the port and the Customs House and among CFS stations. When this system is put in place, documentation can be done and filed immediately with the Customs, obviating the need for steamer agents to file separately with Customs House. Similarly, some documents filed by Customs are transmitted to the port electronically.

Also under implementation is the Gateway project, which will enable importers and exporters to file documents from their offices. Almost all the work relating to import and export documentation and stuffing of cargo are attended to at the CFSs.

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