Behind a success story

Published : Apr 09, 2004 00:00 IST

HE has been at the helm of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) for just over a year now. But his contribution in pushing through reforms in the ports sector and placing JNPT on the international maritime trade map, is immense. Today the port is touted as India's own super-port and a major container hub and is well on its way to joining the elite club of global ports. Meet, Ravi B. Budhiraja, Chairman of JNPT. A scholar-bureaucrat, Budhiraja has been instrumental in the swift development of the port. His efforts to wrap up the bidding process for the Rs.1,000-crore third container terminal project have added a new dimension to port privatisation, with the Maersk-Concor consortium, which is all set to win the contract, offering a revenue share of 35.5 per cent to the port.

One of the major challenges before the JNPT was the handling of one million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). This was achieved during 2003-04. By February end the terminal handled over 9.05 lakh TEUs and by March end it crossed the one-million TEU mark. In fact, both the JNPT terminal and the Nhava Sheva International Container Terminal (NSICT) together handled two million TEUs by February, thus surpassing the target set by the Ministry of Shipping, the strike rate being 6,123 TEUs a day. Today the port, including NSICT, accounts for over 58 per cent of India's container trade.

Budhiraja is known to be a man who does not rest. Soon after wrapping up the bidding process for the third container terminal, he hastened efforts to launch the bidding process for the fourth. "We have already engaged the Central Water Power Research Station in Pune to conduct physical and mathematical model studies, which will be followed by a feasibility study and a detailed project report. The fourth terminal will have a quay length of 1,200 metres and a handling capacity of three million TEUs," he said.

Simultaneously, the port plans to take up a Rs.700-crore project to deepen and widen the port channel for the faster turnaround of larger vessels.

One oft-asked question is how NSICT has been able to perform better than the JNPT terminal. Budhiraja is quick to point out that this demonstrates how privatisation can bring in competition and how, with the help of modern handling equipment, a higher level of efficiency can be achieved. "In fact, NSICT's operations have increased the productivity of JNPT thanks to private sector-public sector competition. In November 2003, NSICT handled 93,467 TEUs, while JNPT handled 91,107 TEUs," he points out.

The financial performance of the port has also improved. While, JNPT earned a net surplus of Rs.127 crores in 2002-03, it expects to notch up a surplus of Rs.180 crores in 2003-04.

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