The standard-bearer

Print edition : April 09, 2004

With a diversified fleet strength of 87 vessels, Shipping Corporation of India has a significant presence on the global maritime map.

SHIPPING Corporation of India Ltd. (SCI), the country's premier shipping line, was incorporated on October 2, 1961, by the amalgamation of Eastern Shipping Corporation and Western Shipping Corporation, with an authorised capital of Rs.35 crores and a paid-up capital of Rs.23.45 crores. In 1961, SCI's fleet size stood at 19 vessels totalling 1,39,000 gross tonne (gt) and 1,92,000 deadweight tonnage (dwt). Jayanti Shipping Company was merged with SCI in 1973, leading to an addition of 16 ships, and Mogul Line Ltd in 1986, adding 12 more ships.

Indamex Tuticorin, a container vessel of SCI, on its maiden voyage from the Tuticorin port to New York.-

Today SCI has a significant presence on the global maritime map. It owned a fleet of 87 vessels totalling 2.6 million gt (4.6 m dwt) as on February 2, accounting for about 42 per cent of the national tonnage. In addition, it operates a leased vessel and mans/manages 42 vessels on behalf of various government departments. Its diversified fleet, which includes modern and fuel-efficient ships, gives it a distinct competitive edge.

Now SCI has an authorised capital of Rs.450 crores and a paid-up capital of Rs.282.3 crores. For the financial year 2002-03, it recorded a turnover of Rs.2,446.50 crores and a net profit after tax of Rs.274.78 crores. The company paid a dividend of 30 per cent for 2002-03. As per the unaudited financial results for nine months ended December 31, 2003, SCI recorded a turnover of Rs.2,273.13 crores and a net profit after tax of Rs.369.85 crores. The company declared and paid a special interim dividend of 170 per cent for 2003-04.

SCI operates a network of global liner services. As the trend is towards containerised services, it operates four Cellular Container Services covering the Far East, the United Kingdom-Continent sector and the east coast of the United States. In the U.K.-Continent sector, both break-bulk and exclusive container services are provided.

In January 2002, two competing consortia, the India Europe Service (IES) comprising SCI, Zim Lines of Israel and Yang-Ming Lines of Taiwan and the India Europe Express Service (IEX) comprising Evergreen Lines of Taiwan, K-Line (Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha) of Japan and MISC of Malaysia, formed a new consortium offering the trade a weekly service in the Indian subcontinent/U.K.-Continent sector. The service is operated with seven ships of 2,600 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) capacity. It offers a direct container service between India/Sri Lanka and Europe with a transit time of about 18 days between Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust to the U.K.-Continent. The service also covers the central and east Mediterranean ports from Port Said, using the efficient feeder network out of that port. While all the partners have contributed one vessel each, SCI and Zim Lines share the seventh vessel on a 70:30 basis.

In March 2000 SCI commenced a direct joint container service between India and the ports on the east coast of the U.S., the India/American east coast (INDAMEX) cellular service, with M/s. Contship Container Lines Ltd., Ipswich, U.K. and CMA-CGM S.A., Marseilles, France, offering the trade a fixed day/weekly container service. The service was upgraded in terms of tonnage, speed and capacity with the joining of M/s. American President Lines, the largest carrier between India and the U.S., whereby the transit time to New York has been reduced from 21 days to 18 days. The service is operated with seven vessels of 2,100 TEU average capacity and has a round voyage duration of 49 days with the following port rotation: Colombo, Tuticorin, Nhava Sheva, New York, Norfolk, Charleston, Port Said and Colombo.

SCI together with K-Line, Japan, Pacific International Line (PIL), Singapore, and Dongnama Shipping, South Korea, has launched the India/Far East Cellular Service (INDFEX), a direct container service with fixed day/weekly sailing linking India with the Far East ports of South Korea and China. The service was flagged off on June 1, 2001, at Busan (South Korea) with the deployment of five ships of 1,400 TEU with all consortium partners deploying one vessel each and the cost of the fifth ship deployed being shared equally by PIL, K-Line and SCI. The service has evolved into a niche weekly service with a round voyage duration of 35 days, and from January 2003, the service has been upgraded with ships of 1,800 TEU.

SCI launched another joint container service, the India Far-East Express Two (INDFEX 2), in Chennai on June 16, 2002, linking, for the first time, the east coast of India with the northern ports in China. INDFEX 2 is being offered by the consortium of SCI, Dongnama Shipping Company, K-Line and PIL. INDFEX 2 offers a faster, more economic shipping service compared to other competing services that are operated through feeder or transhipment arrangements. The port rotation of this service is: Dalian, Xingang, Yantai, Qingdao, Hong Kong, Singapore, Port Kelang, Chennai, Port Kelang, Singapore, Pasirgudang, Hong Kong and Dalian.

In addition to international operations, SCI, with its owned/managed vessels operates domestic passenger-cum-cargo services between the mainland and the Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep groups of islands. It also mans and manages certain other types of vessels (such as geological survey and ocean research vessels, and the lighthouse tender ship) on behalf of the government departments.

SCI's bulk carrier fleet caters to the movement of almost all types of dry bulk cargoes, mainly in the export of iron ore to Japan and the import of coking coal from Australia. Some tonnage is deployed on the Indian coast and also on cross trades. SCI's fleet of crude tankers is deployed in the import of crude oil to Indian refineries and in the movement/storage of the Bombay High crude. Its product tankers are engaged in the import and coastal movement of petroleum products and its specialised vessels in the transportation of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), ammonia and phosphoric acid.

SCI, in consortium with three Japanese lines - Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd (MOL), NYK and K-Line - has won the bid for the transportation of five million tonnes per annum of LNG (liquefied natural gas) from Qatar's Rasgas for Petronet LNG's (PLL) Dahej project starting January 2004. SCI and MOL have a 34.21 per cent stake each in the consortium, with the remaining 31.58 per cent being shared by NYK (21.05 per cent) and K-Line (10.53 per cent). SCI has diversified into the Indian offshore marine business and provides vital offshore support services to the Indian oil industry in its indigenous oil exploration activities. Its 10 anchor handling towing-cum-supply vessels are on long-term charter to the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation. It manages ONGC's specialised vessels as also its offshore supply vessels (OSVs).

The Government of India conferred the Mini Ratna status on SCI under Category-I in 2000. SCI has been performing exceptionally well under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) evaluation system and has received "excellent" rating consistently for 11 years, up to 2001-02. SCI's Maritime Training Institute (MTI) in Mumbai is recognised as a branch of World Maritime University (Sweden) and as a regional training centre by UNCTAD. SCI operates in a highly competitive international arena and, despite various constraints, has managed to keep its head well above troubled waters by adopting strategic measures from time to time.

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