New Focus: Ports taking steps towards modernisation and mechanization

Ports taking steps towards modernisation and mechanization

Maritime logistics has been an important component of the Indian economy, accounting for 90 per cent of the export-import trade by volume and 72 per cent by value. However, ports in the country have been criticised for being inefficient in terms of cargo handling. The major factors that have contributed to inefficiencies in the port sector are long waiting time; poor turnaround time; obsolete equipment and poor maintenance; cumbersome documentary procedures for cargo clearance; inadequate port access facilities; skewed handling capacity for different types of cargo; infrastructure constraints in hinterland connectivity for moving inbound and outbound cargo; and overstaffing.

At present, very few ports have the capacity to handle Capesize vessels. The Ministry of Shipping (MoS) aims to increase the draught at major ports to at least 14 metres and further to 18 metres for hub ports. (The global standard for draught levels is 23 metres.)

A study undertaken for benchmarking Indian ports against Chinese and US ports shows that India lags behind significantly in terms of port infrastructure. Today, seven of the top 10 ports in the world (by throughput) are in China. Around 25 per cent of the cargo bound for India is transshipped through international transshipment ports due to the lack of infrastructure to handle larger vessels at Indian ports.

Major ports, in particular, have high inefficiencies in the form of longer ship turnaround time, higher cargo dwell time, and difficulty in evacuation, which increase the overall logistics cost to the customer. This assumes importance in light of the fact that these ports handle a significant share of total traffic at Indian ports, which increased from 934 million tonnes (mt) in 2012-13 to 1,073 mt in 2015-16.  Major ports handled 56.4 per cent of the total cargo in 2015-16 (606 mt) as against 55 per cent in 2014-15, thus reversing the trend of their declining share in total traffic.

Considering the strategic location of major ports and their significance in trade, it is important to improve their performance to meet global benchmarks. With the MoS keen on handling Capesize vessels in India, it is vital that such handling capability is developed at key ports to ensure economies of scale in trade.

There is thus a need to look at the end-to-end supply chain to improve trade as a whole. The government has taken initiatives for transforming existing ports into modern world-class ports; integrating ports, industrial clusters and the hinterland by efficient evacuation systems via road, rail, and inland and coastal waterways; and enabling ports to become the drivers of economic activity in coastal areas. Under Sagarmala, projects with an investment of over $10 billion are planned to be taken up in the next five years for capacity addition and modernisation. Further, 20 new mobile harbour cranes are planned to be installed at major ports.

There is also greater focus on the improvement of gate processing, reduction in rake turnaround time and the use of advanced technology-based solutions like radio frequency identification (RFID) and optical character recognition (OCR).

Under the gate automation system, there is a need to validate driver credentials; digitise Central Industrial Security Force operations; digitise customs document verification; and minimise vehicle waiting time. The technology required for the system includes OCR cameras, RFID equipment, boom barriers and global positioning system equipment.

New advanced equipment is being procured by ports to achieve greater levels of modernisation and mechanisation. One of the leading players in the mobile crane market in India, TIL Limited exported its 200th Hyster-TIL reach stacker in 2016. The company had delivered its 100th Hyster-TIL reach stacker in December 2014 and in 2015, had secured an order for 26 reach stackers from Container Corporation of India Limited.

Another technology being used by ports is shore-to-ship power supply, wherein power supply is given to the ship by sourcing power from the shore. The equipment required for such power supply is S2SP converters; transformers and switchgear; protection equipment; control and communication systems, etc.

In countries like India, shore power supplies operate on a 50 Hz electrical power cycle, whereas ships operate on a 60 Hz power cycle. Therefore, the 50 Hz cycle has to first be converted into a 60 Hz cycle before it can be fed to the ship electrics. The auxiliary system, comprising auxiliary engines on ships and cranes for loading and unloading, is kept running even when ships are docked at the port. If it is mandatory to switch off the auxiliary system and generators when the ship is at the port, then shore power can be supplied instead.

The main benefits of such a system are reduced pollution at ports, no noise and vibrations from auxiliary engines, low operating costs for shipowners, etc. The government has initiated green port projects to keep a check on carbon emissions and other related environmental issues at ports. V.O. Chidambaranar (VOC) is the country’s first commercial port to install shore-to-ship power convertors. Pipavav too has a similar installation.

Based on presentations by Anil Bhatia, Vice-President, Sales and Marketing, TIL Limited; Devdatta Bose, Group Sector Head, Ports and Harbours, Tata Consulting Engineers; Vineet Malhotra, Director, Kale Logistics; Upendra Rao, Vice-President, Power Protection, ABB India; and Vinay Nyamati, Managing Director, V&V Comptech Systems, at a recent India Infrastructure conference