Port Wings Editorial, Dec 31, 2014:
India has a coastline spanning 7516.6 kilometers, forming one of the biggest peninsulas in the world. It is serviced by 12 major ports and over 180 non-major ports.
Since the Indian government has a federal structure, maritime transport is to be administered by both the Central and the State governments.
While the central government's shipping ministry administers the major ports, the non-major ports are administered by the relevant departments or ministries in the nine coastal states West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
The port infrastructure in our country, be it major ports or non-major ports, is abysmally low when compared to other developed maritime nations. There is a growing demand to have longer quay length facilities to accommodate even the 18000 TEUs-capacity vessels to dock.
The telling example of country’s present status of maritime infrastructure is CSCL Globe, currently world’s largest container carrying vessel, which cannot dock in any Indian ports due to its size and draft requirements.
While the shipping companies are intending to go for larger vessels to save their cost on bunkering and transportation, availability of only larger vessels in future could spell doom for Indian ports.
So, it is time for the government of India to develop two ports, one in the east coast and one on the west coast, to accommodate bigger and larger vessels.
While Chennai Port, one of the oldest ports in the country and known as the “Eastern Gateway Port” by Exim fraternity in the region, had plans to go for mega container terminal with a capacity to accommodate 18000-TEUs capacity vessels. However, the project slipped to cold storage due to poor response from developers.
Chennai in the east coast and JNPT in the west coast would be ideal ports to develop such facilities, where they can accommodate larger vessels.
According to latest data on larger vessels, about 260 ships larger than 10,000 TEU were operated by 16 of the top 25 carriers, while another 143 units were on order. Their capacities range between 10,000 TEU and around 19,000 TEU. The average nominal capacity of all existing and coming ultra large container ships (ULCS) is 13,500 TEU.
So, it is time for Government of India to ponder over the issue seriously and set its goal for setting up such facilities sooner than later.
Otherwise, Indian ports will simply become a feeder ports transshipping containers originating from the country to either at Colombo or to Port Klang in future.