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Chennai port authorities should eliminate the very thought of competition from neighboring ports: Shri S. Nataraja, President, CCHBA

Q) How do you see the growth potential of Chennai port in the light of stiff competition from Katupalli, Kamarajar and Krishnapatnam ports? From being the only port for South India two decades ago, Chennai port has three ports in the vicinity scouting for cargo from the same hinterland.

ANS) Chennai port authorities should eliminate the very thought of competition from neighboring ports. Industrial activity is bound to grow in this region so also the exports and imports. There has been a periodical growth in cargo volumes of all the ports in the region

Chennai port should concentrate on improving the infrastructure, connectivity and strengthening its marketing team. Due to political reasons an excellent Port connectivity project like Maduravoyal Elevated Corridor project got indefinitely delayed. The project which should have been implemented on a war footing is moving at snailís pace. Chennai port authorities, National highway authority and the Tamil Nadu government should work in tandem and get the project executed within a two years. The project would provide Oxygen to Chennai port.

Fortunately we have a Chairman at the Chennai Port who is pro active and is taking various initiatives to bring back the lost cargo to the port.

Q) Indian ports need more cargo and not increase in their numbers said an official of a container terminal recently. What is your take on his contention?

ANS) I do not agree with the contention that India does not need more ports. The government is creating new ports with a vision to serve the EXIM trade for the next fifty years. Terminal operators should step up their performance.

Q) Indian ports put together handle 75 per cent of the containers handled at the Chinese port of Shanghai. What is the outlook for the Indian Port Industry since the country is seen as an emerging market after China?

Ans)  Shanghai port has geographical advantages since it is situated at the gateway of Pacific and Indian Oceans. Ninety per cent of the cargo handled at the port is through transshipment business. We should not see Shanghai and Hong Kong ports as our role models.

Port Business in Indian ports should be conducted in healthy terms for our trade. The government is taking active steps to bring down the logistics costs and this would go a long way in improving the trade volumes.

Q) No new port has taken off in the last four years. Colachel port is stuck due to fishermen agitations. The new ports planned at Maharashtra, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh have not taken off. What needs to be done to make Colachel transshipment terminal a success unlike the failure of Vallarpadam Terminal near Cochin?

ANS)  The livelihood problems of fishermen operating in the area should be taken into account before port is set up. You donít deprive livelihood of one lakh fishermen to create livelihood and development by setting up a port.

Q) Will the completion of the Elevated Corridor Project from Chennai Port to Maduravoyal, Multimodal Logistics Park at Jolarpet and Satellite Port project at Puducherry improve the volumes of Chennai port ?

Ans): Besides increasing the volumes of Chennai port, these projects would go a long way to Industrialize the state of Tamil Nadu.


(Brief summary of the Interview of Shri S.Nataraja, CCHBA)

The Customs house has seen a transformation in the last two years from being an tough enforcement agency to a trade facilitator since the implementation o the east of doing business by the government of India. But the concept of being a trade facilitator has not percolated to the lower level of the Customs bureaucracy.

High officers like Chief Commissioners and their deputies go by the thinking of the government and initiate lot of trade friendly measures. But this does not get reflected in the lower level of bureaucracy at preventive, appraising or examining officers. Hence trade still continues to face lot of issues at the ground level notwithstanding friendly attitude of the government.

The trade has sorted out technological glitches since the implementation of Goods and Service tax last July through periodic meetings with the customs officers. The EXIM trade in Chennai has listed the issues in a note submitted to the Customs house. He expressed confidence that all issues concerning technology will be sorted out in a week or two.

The Customs house brokers are not fully equipped to handle digitization of cargo handling operations introduced by the Custom houses all over the country Regular training programs are being conducted in collaboration with Federation of Freight Forwarders Association the apex body of the customs house brokers association.

Nearly seventy per cent of cargo continued to be handled by the Container Freight stations despite full-fledged operation of the Direct Port Delivery at Chennai Port last month. (March 2018)  Hence the belief that CFS will go out of business with the introduction of direct port delivery system by the Port is not correct. The CFS will do well to create more covered space near their premises as value addition ware housing service to the trade.

CONCOR and the Railways have to be pro active and provide more services to the East coast ports which are functioning at fifty per cent of their capacity. Neither CONCOR nor Railways improve their freight services to the east coast ports nor would they allow private players to operate in the sector.

They should also rework their freight rates in order to compete with the road transport which corner most of the handling operations.

Instead of insisting on return cargo to start freight services to a town, CONCOR should commence promotion services to Guntur, Hyderbad, Nagpur, Hosur, Tirupur and Coimbatore from Chennai port. It should also improve its marketing team. Solutions are in their hands but they must have the inclination to implement it.

Mainlines vessels have pulled out of East coast port since private terminal operators are not cooperating in ensuring that they stick the scheduled provided by them. Number of main line vessels calling at east coast ports has come down drastically in the last ten years. Another reasons why they are not coming here is the lack of cargo. Shipping Corporation of Indiaís move for aggregation of east coast portís cargo at Tuticorin port would go a long way to attract mainline vessels.

Chennai port will take up the ambitious transshipment operators shortly as the customs are all set to give clearance for this project. If this trial operation at Chennai port succeeds, it will be extended to Tuticorin port as well.

Coastal shipping service will not successful unless end to end solutions to cargo movement are found. The trade will like to see their cargo reach the destination in a timely cost effective manner.

Instead of worrying about completion from the neighboring ports Chennai port would do well to improve the infrastructure, connectivity and strengthen its marketing team. The Elevated corridor project to Madhuravoyal project should be taken up on a war footing since it provided oxygen to the port. The project unfortunately is moving at snailís pace.)

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