Interview with Anil Diggikar: “The past year has been excellent for JNPT in terms of performance and efficiency”

“The past year has been excellent for JNPT in terms of performance and efficiency”

The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) is the country’s biggest container handling port. It accounts for a 41 per cent share in total port traffic handled in the state. The past year has been an important one for the port. It has taken several steps to augment capacity as well as improve connectivity and promote ease of doing business. Anil Diggikar, IAS, chairman, JNPT, talks about the performance of the port in the past year, key initiatives undertaken and plans for the future…

What were the major developments at JNPT in the past one year?

The past year has been excellent for JNPT in terms of performance as well as in setting better service standards for customers. JNPT achieved the highest ever container traffic of 4.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). JNPT-owned and operated container terminal, the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Container Terminal (JNPCT), also set a record by handling 1.53 million TEUs, the highest ever since the inception of the port.

During the past year, JNPT has initiated and implemented many measures to promote the ease of doing business at the port. Facilitation of paperless transactions, direct port delivery to all importers approved by customs (irrespective of volume), radio frequency identification-based gate systems to facilitate seamless movement, separate parking lots for all terminals, conversion of parking plots into customs processing zones, inter-terminal trailer movement, balancing container movement during peak and off-peak hours, are some of the steps implemented to achieve efficiency at the port, are some of the steps implemented to achieve efficiency at the port.

How does maritime sector development in Maharashtra compare with other maritime states, and with the overall development in the country?

JNPT is located at Navi Mumbai and has the largest share in trade among all ports. With the planned expansion of capacities, Maharashtra will continue to dominate and retain its pre-eminent position. The Maharashtra Maritime Board also initiated many projects along Maharashtra’s coastline for overall development of the port sector in the state.

How has the increase in the number of private ports in Gujarat affected cargo flow from ports in Maharashtra, particularly JNPT?

JNPT handled the highest ever container traffic last year despite tough times in the shipping sector. While private ports in Gujarat and other states will come up, we are confident that cargo flow will continue and grow at JNPT in the coming years. It is true that the share of rail-bound cargo is reducing year on year due to the difference in freight charges between road and rail. Gujarat ports may capture new cargo generated in the northern hinterland due to this as they have much more capacity available, given that JNPT is currently working at optimum capacity.

In July 2016, a 330 metre stand-alone container terminal developed by Dubai Ports World commenced operations and added 0.8 million TEUs of capacity. At the end of the current year (2017-18), the first phase of the fourth container terminal set up by Bharat Mumbai Container Terminal Private Limited will add capacity of 2.4 million TEUs, and another 2.4 million TEUs of capacity will be added by end-2022.

JNPT is the leading container port in the country. What initiatives is the port taking to retain its number one position amidst the growing competition from private ports?

JNPT is implementing several steps to maintain its current leadership status. The planned capacity expansion up to 10 million TEUs will give it an edge in handling more cargo in the coming years. Steps implemented with a view to creating a more conducive atmosphere for promoting trade has already led to more efficiency and saving in costs to the tune of Rs 1.25 billion for export-import trade. In addition to this, JNPT is developing a special economic zone (SEZ) on its freehold land of 277 hectares. Through the SEZ, JNPT will attract global investments and industries close to the port that will further boost business at JNPT.

The planned port at Vadhavan near Dahanu, under the Sagarmala programme, will act as a satellite port for JNPT. How do you foresee the development of this port affecting cargo traffic at JNPT?

Under the Sagarmala programme, the government is implementing several steps to boost India’s export trade. The proposed port at Vadhavan near Dahanu as a satellite port will further increase port-related business. There will be greater synergy with the development of Vadhavan, and trade will grow in a seamless way. Container traffic in the country, growing at 8 per cent, will generate more cargo. The government’s Make in India initiative focused on export-oriented growth will add and ensure future traffic.

What is your view on the present scenario of the port sector and its growth potential?

India’s total port capacity can go up to 3,000 million tonnes by 2025 from the current 1,500 million tonnes, with an ambitious investment of Rs 1 trillion in port-led development. In addition to building capacity, it will improve the performance of ports and turnaround time.

Six new port locations have been identified based on three themes: port saturation, non-availability of a port on the coastline stretch, and strategic location. Vadhawan port, Paradip south satellite port and Sagar port have been identified where capacity at the existing ports has been saturated. The port at Vadhavan near Dahanu (Thane district), with a depth of 20 metres, will act as a satellite port for JNPT, and is expected to cater mainly to container traffic from the northern hinterland.

What are the key upcoming projects at the port? What will be the likely capacity addition and investment?

JNPT is spending a considerable amount on building capacity, such as the fourth container terminal (at an investment of Rs 79.15 billion), deepening and widening of channel from 14 metres to 15 metres to accommodate larger vessels (Rs 19.93 billion), and various road developments projects (Rs 32.86 billion), apart from a highway widening project (Rs 29.36 billion) with the help of an external commercial borrowing of $400 million.

What are the major issues and challenges being faced by JNPT?

As a leader in the port sector, JNPT’s main challenge is to maintain the new efficiency standards achieved in the past few years and further facilitate trade from the port. A customer-centric approach and its smooth implementation is a major challenge that JNPT will face. The decreasing share of rail as a mode of transport is a major challenge to ports as well as for railways. To overcome this issue, Indian Railways is developing a dedicated freight corridor between Delhi and Mumbai. Due to double-stack containers and doubling of rakes from 90 wagons to 180 wagons, the capacity will increase fourfold, which will reduce logistics and rail freight costs. This will also increase the share of railways.

What are JNPT’s key priorities and goals for the next two-three years?

The smooth execution of ongoing projects and the setting up of a SEZ project are main priorities for JNPT for the next two-three years. High standards of service for the trading community have been set in the past two years and further improvement of these standards and setting of service benchmarks are key priorities for JNPT.