The Covid-19 outbreak has severely affected the maritime sector. Disruptions in the supply chain have had serious implications for cargo traffic at ports. The major ports have been registering contractions in cargo volumes since the imposition of the lockdown. While the pandemic has impacted cargo operations, it has increased the pace of technology adoption in the port sector. In an interview with Indian Infrastructure, Sanjay Sethi shares his views on the key developments in the past few months, the impact of Covid-19 on port operations, mitigation strategies adopted by the port trust and future priority areas…
What have been JNPT’s key achievements in the past six to eight months?
The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) played a crucial role in keeping the global supply chain active by remaining operational during the lockdown. The last 6 months have been very challenging for the entire sector. When the entire country came to a standstill because of the restrictions to control the pandemic, JNPT took various steps to keep Port Ecosystem functional and for smooth working of whole Logistic Supply Chain. With the support of Ministry and Statutory Government authorities we ensured the requisite amendments in the Prohibition Orders issued by Central & State Govt and including all the stakeholders under essential services like Shipping Lines, Container Fright Stations (CFSs), Custom House Agents (CHAs), Transporters, and others linked to Port Operations, helping them to remain operational. By being fully operational, JNPT continued its delivery of vital goods such as medical supplies, fuel and food in these difficult times. This also helped the port achieve a major milestone of handling over 5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) for the second consecutive year during FY 2019-20.
JNPT also took some proactive measures and extended reliefs to the trade in order to support Port users and end users like – No dwell time charges was levied for all import containers moved by road (CFS/DPD/Empty); No shifting charges levied for import containers for which change of mode activity (from truck to rail) was performed to facilitate movement of CFS/DPD containers by Rail and Delivery of DPD containers were allowed from Terminals beyond the 48 hour period.
In the wake of this crisis, Port also provided accommodation for the staff of terminals, drivers etc. in Port township, Free Bus Service for the staff of essential services stakeholders for movement in the port area along with the drivers being provided with meal packets and primary health check at the parking plazas.
JNPort also prepared an action plan for avoiding congestion and created sufficient storage capacities inside and outside the Port. Extended Port gate facility made available for DPD containers at Mulund and Boisar. Additional storage capacity created at CWC, Dronagiri node where cargo is being moved through En-block movement. Also the average rail coefficient of the first quarter of FY2020- 21 increased to 23.40%, an improvement of 46%, as compared to 16.04% of same period LY.
The port has ensured several preventive measures to equip and protect its workforce and nearby local community against the ongoing pandemic. JNPT carried out extensive community disinfectant spraying and sanitation drive at JNPT and its nearby villages to help put a strong fight against COVID 19. JNPT has always risen to the occasion, and is very conscious of its role and responsibility towards the extended JNPT family, keeping this in mind, JNPT converted its Multi Skill Training Centre at Bokadvira into a COVID CARE Hospital with 120 beds and ambulance service and handed it over to the state authorities for the protection of the local community and the JNPT Hospital has also been converted as Dedicated Covid health Care Centre to cater to not just JNPT employees but the local community.
What has been the impact of Covid-19 on JNPT’s operations and project implementation?
The outbreak of Covid-19 has affected all the sectors, including the maritime sector. The pandemic has caused disruptions in the supply chain and the export-import (exim) segment. JNPT too faced minor setbacks in the initial stages. However, the industry is slowly but steadily recovering from the disruption caused by Covid-19. I am sure that the speed of recovery will increase significantly in the coming months. The sector is moving towards normalisation. JNPT handled a noteworthy 1,643,784 TEUs and 694 vessels from 22nd March to 31st August 2020.
Another major achievement is JNPT SEZ being operational now. As on date, 19 MSME and 1 Free Trade Warehousing Zone (FTWZ) co-developer have been allotted the plots in JNPT SEZ. Once fully occupied, JNPT-SEZ is expected to generate Rs 4,000 Crores of investments and create 57,000 jobs in the SEZ. The port is leaving no stone unturned to ensure world-class infrastructure and facilities to units in the SEZ. Hindustan Infralog Private Limited, a joint venture between DP World and the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, has announced an investment of Rs 10 billion to develop the NhavaSheva business park and a free trade warehousing zone (FTWZ) at JNPT SEZ. This project will be completed by end 2021 and will provide a seamless experience for both domestic and international traders at JNPT.
Along with this, work on the other ongoing projects like Coastal berth, Road connectivity project are also going as per the plan.
What has JNPT’s response to the pandemic been in terms of mitigation strategies and deployment of new technologies?
We are focusing on operations being normal with the support of all stakeholders. We are looking to further strengthen our position, achieve the goals and remain a leading port in the coming years with new innovations and dedication, deploying the best technologies backed by customer service, and above all being the port of choice for customers.
Ports and shipping is one of the most technologically advanced and innovative sectors in the world. Technology has changed the world that we live in and it has definitely changed the way we operate our business. In the Indian port sector, JNPT has always been the leader in technological advancements. We took various proactive measures for the seamless movement of cargo/containers and to facilitate hassle-free operations. For the safety of the port staff members and exim community, JNPT also focused on paperless, no-contact measures in addition to the existing technological advancements at the port.
Aligning with the direction of the ministry, the Port has already initiated various activities under Ease of doing Business and significant results were achieved in reducing cost and time for EXIM trade. JNPT had made a three pronged approach: Improvement of infrastructure, Simplification of processes and Digitization of activities.
Under improvement of infrastructure, JNPT created parking yards for undocumented export containers, facilitated infrastructure for Customs for clearance in the Parking Yards, Centralized Parking Plaza Project, and widening of roads and other infrastructure projects. Under the simplification of process, the inter-terminal movements , DPD deliveries, Direct Port Entry (DPE), and ITHRO have been a major game changer. Beneath digitization, the Form-13 and Form-11 have been made online. The RFID system was introduced for Gate access. Shipping Lines were facilitated with PCS platform for issuance of E-DO. JNPT is constantly equipping itself with innovative technology that enables it to deliver higher productivity and operational excellence, along with meeting enhanced safety standards.
What are the key priorities, focus areas and plans for the future?
At JNPT, we are looking forward to reaching pre-Covid volume numbers by end Sept-Oct 2020. Also, we are currently developing our fourth container terminal in partnership with the Port of Singapore Authority which will double our capacity by 2022-23.
With regard to infrastructure projects under Sagarmala, another major infrastructure project that will serve as a lucrative investment destination for domestic and global port-based industries is the JNPT SEZ. It is expected to set a new benchmark for port-led industrialisation in the country. JNPT is also developing an FTWZ at JNPT SEZ which will be a boon for companies setting up base there to carry out trading, manufacturing and warehousing and other related activities. Besides the port-based SEZ, JNPT is also developing dry ports in the hinterland of Maharashtra at Jalna, Wardha, Nashik and Sangli. These dry ports are being developed on the hub-and-spoke model for cargo clearance and aggregation. To meet the growing demand for handling liquid cargo, JNPT has undertaken a project to develop a liquid jetty of 4.5 million tonnes per annum at a cost of Rs 3.09 billion. These projects will not only accentuate the port’s capacity and efficiency in business but will also provide employment and livelihood to the local community, thus helping in inclusive development. JNPT is also developing a satellite port at Vadhavan near Tarapur in Palghar district, which will be an “all-weather, all-cargo” port and will facilitate the berthing of modern ultra large container vessels.
What is the overall outlook for the port sector? How is the sector expected to evolve in the post-Covid world?
India’s shipping and port industry has been adversely impacted by the outbreak of Covid-19 across the globe. But now the port sector is witnessing early signs of recovery and rate of cargo decline at major and non-major ports decelerated in July 2020, as per credit rating agency ICRA.
Overcoming the challenges of Covid-19 and staying operational, JNPT has been continuously growing month on month to shoulder its responsibilities of being a strategic contributor to nation building even during this pandemic. JNPort registered a throughput of 3,52,735 TEUs in container handling in August 2020 as against 3,44,316 TEUs handled in July 2020 . This steady month over month growth is a very positive sign for the entire sector.
JNPT will continue to lend support to the country’s economic growth and perform its duties to facilitate growth in the port sector.