Interview with Sanjay Sethi

“JNPA is playing a pivotal role in Sagarmala”

Sanjay Sethi, IAS,
Chairman, JNPA

Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNP) is the largest container handling major port in the country. Having won a number of awards and accolades, the port is now set for further capacity expansion. Upscaling operations, improving port connectivity and ensuring ease of doing business are some of the focus areas of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA). In an interview with Indian Infrastructure, Sanjay Sethi, IAS, Chairman, JNPA, shares his views on JNP’s performance, digitalisation initiatives, key challenges and future plans. Excerpts…

What do you attribute the port’s strong all-around performance in 2021-22 to?

JNPA’s impressive performance during the financial year, despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, is a testament to its commitment to economic growth in India. Playing the role of an end-to-end port operator to meet the rising demand, the port ensures timely and safe movement of the cargo by helping reduce the logistics cost.

The port’s improved infrastructure, simplified processes and ease of doing business have facilitated an increase in cargo. Studies have found that the time and cost advantage at JNP is greater than its private counterparts, as JNP involves the entire ecosystem including customs, other stakeholders and the local people. The port has had radio frequency identification-based gate automation for over three years, and supports online payments. These are examples of technology making processes quicker and easier.

How has JNPA contributed to the nation’s trade during the Covid-19 pandemic?

JNPA remained operational during the entire lockdown period to maintain the supply chain links within the country, and extended all possible support to the stakeholders of the JNP eco­system. The port authorities ensured free movement of containers to and from container freight stations (CFSs) and the port, by getting the necessary amendments in the prohibition orders issued by the central and state governments. Because of this, various other agencies such as shipping lines, CFSs, customs house ag­ents, transporters and the Container Cor­poration of India remained operational as per schedule, helping the port perform its du­ties during these difficult times.

As the leading container port, JNPA rolled out various trade-friendly measures for the export-import (EXIM) community. The port took proactive measures and extended relief to trade in order to support port users and end-users. These included not levying dwell time charges and shifting charges. Further, the delivery of direct port delivery containers was allowed from terminals beyond the prescribed 48-hour period.

What efforts are being made to achieve JNPA’s goal of handling 10 million TEUs?

JNPA’s primary objective when undertaking any project is to enhance its trade capacity and improve port efficiency. In 2021-22, JNP handled a record 5.68 million TEUs, against 4.68 million TEUs in 2020-21 – an increase of 21.55 per cent. JNPA is now striving to achieve the benchmark of handling 10 million TEUs by not only enhancing infrastructure and increasing tra­de efficiency, but also working on various aspects such as providing better connectivity, reducing logistics costs, decreasing turnar­ou­nd time and digitalising processes.

JNPA is developing its fourth container terminal with a capacity of 4.8 million TEUs (2.4 million TEUs per phase). Phase I is already operational and work on Phase II has begun. It is expected to be complete by April 2025. The completion of this project will facilitate JNPA’s entry into the 10 million TEU club, along with other ca­pacity addition projects such as a coastal berth and an additional liquid cargo jetty.

Elaborate on the upcoming infrastructure projects involving JNPA. How will they benefit the port?

JNPA has been planning various projects to further enhance the port’s connectivity and en­sure seamless and faster movement of containers. Over and above JNPA’s initiatives, the up­­coming  Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link, conn­ec­ting Sewri to Nhava Sheva, will ease traffic problems. Furthermore, the Panvel-Uran coas­tal road is expected to provide better connectivity between Belapur, Kharghar and Nerul in the north. Post operationalisation, the Nerul-Bela­pur-Kharkopar railway corridor has benefited the local community. It is expected to be extended to Uran.

The proximity of the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport will not only benefit the port in terms of EXIM, but also help reduce lo­gi­s­tics costs and drastically save time. Addi­tio­nally, JNPA’s project for road widening of NH-4B, SH-54 and Amra Marg to six or eight lanes at an investment of Rs 32.01 crore has been completed through multiple road linkage projects, connecting JNPA with the hinterland. The 1,504 km-long Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, con­necting Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to JNPA, is nearing completion. The corridor will facilitate the running of longer, double-stack container trains, resulting in a significant reduction in tra­vel time for cargo movement.

The most important infrastructure project is the JNPA special economic zone (SEZ). It offers varied facilities ranging from single-window cl­earances to multimodal connectivity, as well as ready, world-class infrastructure, making it an ideal choice for establishing businesses and bo­osting export-oriented industries in India. The ongoing work on the Mumbai-Nagpur Samru­d­dhiMahamarg will also play a major role in connecting JNP to the hinterlands, as well as with the dry ports at Wardha and Jalna.

What is the importance of developing world-class ports?

The mega ports are likely to enhance India’s cargo handling capacity by 466 million tonnes (mt) per year. As part of the Sagarmala vision, India’s cargo traffic handling capacity will be enhanced from 1,550 mt per year to 3,000 mt per year by 2025. These ports will also boost coastal shipping, thus decreasing the dependence on transportation through railways and roadways. This is likely to cut inland transportation costs by up to 80 per cent.

What is the current status of Vadhvan port?

One of JNPA’s most ambitious projects, Vadh­van port, is now very much on track. Relevant studies for environmental clearance have been completed, and detailed engineering studies are al­most complete. Once the environmental clearance is received, the next step will be getting the investment approval, for which the financial and engineering plans, changes in the proposed cost/contours, etc., have to be approved by the Ministry of Finance and the cabinet. This should happen in the next few months. The railways and the National High­ways Authority of India are working on building connectivity to the port. The project is facing some local opposition. However, it is expected that this will be dealt with by taking adequate measures and not impacting the livelihoods of the locals.

“JNPA is developing a fourth container terminal, which is expected to be complete by April 2025. This terminal will double the overall port handling capacity and facilitate JNPA’s entry into the 10 million TEU club.”

How will the Sagarmala project and JNPA’s expansion transform the logistics sector in India?

JNPA has undertaken various projects aligned with the five pillars of the Sagarmala progra­mme – port modernisation and new port development, port connectivity enhancement, port-led industrialisation, coastal community development, and coastal shipping.

The Sagarmala initiative has successfully en­abled Indian ports to handle large volumes by making them more efficient and reducing the turnaround time of containers. Numerous projects have been undertaken across various categories such as port modernisation, rail, road, cruise tourism, roll-on roll-off, roll-on roll-off passenger (ROPAX), fisheries, coastal infrastructure and skill development. Due to the immense po­tential in Maharashtra’s coastal region, 131 pro­jects worth Rs. 1.05 trillion have been proposed for implementation in Maharashtra.

JNPA is playing a pivotal role in the Sagar­mala initiative by boosting port-led industrialisation. JNPA is undertaking multiple projects under Sagarmala, based on the fourfold view put ac­ross by the ministry – changing dynamics, reducing logistics costs, inspiring overall economic development through ports and empowering co­as­tal communities. JNPA’s projects, such as the coastal berth, a berthing facility for roll-on, roll-off/ROPAX vessels, the fourth container terminal, JNPA SEZ, dry ports at Wardha and Jalna, and the additional liquid cargo jetty, will foster ease of doing business for the port and take Indian EXIM to greater heights.

“JNPA has undertaken various initiatives to promote ease of doing business by following a three-pronged
approach: improving infrastructure, simplifying processes and digitalising activities.”

How do you see the Maritime India Vision 2030 and the PM Gati Shakti initiative benefiting JNP?

The Maritime India Vision 2030 is a dedicated document that talks about infrastructure development, green ports, smart ports, mega projects, etc. It also talks about timelines and key result areas for each year up to 2030. It envisages strict monitoring, including by the port and the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and W­aterways. PM Gati Shakti, on the other ha­nd, is more an approach centred on integrating various departments and program­m­es, ma­­in­ly for connectivity. For example, with res­pect to road and rail connectivity, rather than the ports running after the ministries, it has been mandated that the ministries have to provide it. Being an integrated approach, the coordination between different departments is much better. JNPA has started benefiting from both initiatives.

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