Despite the measures the government has taken and will continue to take to
promote coastal shipping, it has not taken off as expected. The benefits of
coastal shipping like cost effectiveness, fuel efficiency and eco-friendliness
have been fully exploited by the developed countries where the share of the
coastal shipping in cargo traffic is
easily a big number compared with what it is in India. Coastal shipping cannot
operate on its own but it needs rail and road connectivity to have the cargo
moved to ships from warehouses and factories before the cargoes reach the
destination ports. The Centre, however, has shown keen concern in developing
the coastal shipping in its flagship project, Sagarmala programme which focuses
exclusively on developing the shipping-related infrastructure requirements. It
aims at creating exclusive berths for coastal shipping so that the ships need
not wait for long for further operations. The Government has been repeatedly
pointing out that the share of the coastal shipping in domestic cargo movement
is a mere 7% which is a miserable low figure compared with the developed
countries in Europe and Asia. Coastal shipping being eco-friendly helps reduce
In fact, the government has gone all out to promote coastal shipping; it
has set aside massive money for port modernization, building new ports,
enhancing port connectivity and developing coastal communities. Experts have
also asked for terminals and handling facilities on the inland waterways so
that the thousands of kilometers of river network can be used and connected
with the ports. And expanding the cargo profile is also another important fact
on the agenda for developing coastal shipping.
More significantly, a practical business-oriented initiative to see the
development of coastal shipping is to address the concerns of the user
community. Mere infrastructure without the strong back up of the user community
will be an investment without profit. And the user community will demand
assured reliability of service coupled with adequate frequency. And there must
be inviting ease of doing business facility with less stringent regulations.
In the exclusive interview for Sagar Sandesh, Mr M.S.Arun, Chairman Chennai
Chapter, National Association of Container Freight Stations, discusses both the
East Coast ports and the West Coast ports and the kind of imbalance between
them in cargo handling. Naturally, the issue of Direct Port Delivery also finds
Sagar Sandesh: East coast ports from Visakhapatnam to Chennai are working
at fifty per cent of their cargo handling capacity while the ports like JNPT
Mundra Kandla are overworked. What are your concrete suggestions to balance the
situation so that both the problems are addressed?
Industries by and large are situated
in North India. They are evacuating the cargo mostly through the west coast
ports. What are the improvements in railway infrastructure you would suggest to
make the shippers use the unutilized capacity in the eastern ports?
Mr Arun:The container rail connectivity from Chennai, especially, is very
poor. There is no scheduled service to Hyderabad and North India from Chennai.
This has led to cargoes from far-eastern countries to the natural destinations
in the east coast being shipped to JNPT & Mundra, leading to congestion at
the West Coast ports and underutilization at the eastern ports. The railway
tariff could also be made competitive so that the congestion at west coast is
reduced and the underutilized east coast can be energized.
SS: What kind of railway infrastructure you would need so that these ports
use the capacity which has been created through funds from the public exchequer?
Mr Arun: Common user terminals should be created at the inland cities so
that private trains can use these terminals. Concor terminals do not allow
private trains to operate thereby being monopolistic. Railway charges should be
the same for both Concor and Private train operators.
SS; What are the steps needed to attract liner vessels to the East coast
Ports.? Currently most of the cargo handling in eastern ports is through feeder
vessels which take to goods either to Colombo or Singapore.
Mr.Arun: Main line vessel calling depends on volume aggregation. Due to
rail connectivity most of the cargoes from far-east is destined to west coast
ports. If these cargoes were to come to east coast then there would be more
main-line vessels calling here, since large volumes of cargo comes from China.
SS: Government has given several concessions to Coastal shipping during the
last few years like exclusive berths in ports priority berthing for ships,
spate of concessions for coastal cargo. Still Coastal shipping has not taken
off. What are steps to be taken to increase the volume of coastal Shipping ?
Mr Arun: Coastal shipping is a green initiative. This should be encouraged
in order to de-congest roads and reduce the carbon footprint. Also, cargoes
need first-mile and last-mile connectivity. Hence, to make coastal shipping a
reality a full logistic support should be in place. Only logistic companies can
undertake the point-to-point movement. Hence, logistic companies willing to
undertake both land and sea movement should be given concessions and
encouraged. Since coastal shipping requires two way cargoes, the logistic
companies should be given incentives till they are able to attract return
SS: How do you see the growth potential of Chennai port in the light of
stiff competition from Krishnapatnam, Katupalli and Ennore ports, is it not the
case of too many Ports sharing the same hinterland chasing too few cargo. What
are steps needed to expand the hinterland ?
Mr Arun: When there was only one terminal at Chennai Port they were
handling 1 million TEUs. With the addition of the second terminal Chennai Port
handled 2 million TEUs. With Kattupalli becoming operational, all the three
terminals are handling 3 million TEUs. Hence, Chennai Port has been able to
maintain their volumes.
SS: With the increase in cargo handling through direct port entry of
exports and direct port delivery of imports, What is the future of container
Mr.Arun: Container Freight Stations will have to re-orient themselves and
cannot continue to be pure CFSs. CFSs should provide value-added services. They
will have to be full-fledged logistic players. They will have to cater to
bonded and general cargoes.
SS: What will be the future of Chennai port in the light of competition and
Mr Arun: With the shift of coal and dirty cargoes out of Chennai Port, the
rail infrastructure inside the Port should be better utilized for hinterland
movement of containers.
SS: Indian ports put together handle 75 per cent of the containers handed
by Shanghai port. What is the outlook for the Indian port industry since India
is seen as a growth centre next only to China in the coming years?
Mr Arun: India is not dependent on exports only. We have a robust domestic
industry and domestic consumption. Hence, we do not have the port volumes of
China. With the ‘Make in India’ slogan, we may see an increase in exports in