Tenth Annual Conference on “Ports in India” Approaches

Tenth Annual Conference on Ports in India Approaches

Indian Infrastructure magazine, with the support of Indian Maritime University, is organising its tenth annual conference on “Ports in India: Accelerating Development, Improving Efficiency’’ on January 22-23, 2013, at the ITC Maratha, Mumbai.

Over the past couple of years, there has been low or no growth in traffic at Indian ports due to the economic slowdown. This is especially true for major ports, some of which have even seen a decline in traffic. Private “non-major” ports, though, have fared much better.

However, despite the low growth in traffic, there is still not enough capacity at the ports. The so-called capacity utilisation factor at major ports was 81 per cent in 2011-12, down from 90 per cent in 2006-07 but still well above the 70-75 per cent levels that are needed to ensure minimum waiting time and regular maintenance. The average pre-berthing time was about 11 hours and the average turnaround time was over 2.5 days.

So despite the low growth, we still have congestion at major ports. This is so because capacity expansion and upgradation projects, many of them based on PPP, have not progressed as planned. Initially, the delay was due to the finalisation of model concession agreements. But even after this issue was resolved, there were delays in the award of projects. Meanwhile, investor interest has decreased because of these delays and the economic slowdown. The investment expenditure in the Eleventh Plan was less than half the planned levels.

The government is promising a change. It has set a target of awarding 42 projects in 2012-13, of which 29 will be PPP based. It is also promising to streamline procedures and announce a number of new policies that will make the environment more conducive to investment and growth.

The performance of major ports is also affected, often negatively, by the need for approvals of their investment and other managerial decisions by the central government on the one hand and the regulation of prices by the Tariff Authority of Major Ports on the other.

Non-major ports have no such handicaps and have managed to turn in better performance and increase market share. They are not only more modern but, arguably, also more innovative.

Major ports need deeper draughts, better rail/road connectivity and improved support infrastructure. They need to have more mechanisation and automation, greater use of information and communication technologies, and better customer service. They also need to aggressively pursue emerging growth and new business opportunities.

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Dredging Today Staff, November 21, 2012