Nhava Sheva Mumbai

The Indian government’s ambitious roadmap for its major public ports is under way, as cargo volumes rebound after crashing at the height of Covid lockdowns.

Maritime India Vision 2030 comprises 963 projects across 12 ports, at an estimated total cost of Rs677.2bn ($8.9bn), and essentially involves the addition of terminal capacity, equipment upgrades, mechanisation, connectivity improvements and digital solutions.

Of these schemes, 208, worth Rs44bn, were completed last year, while 504, with a cost outlay of Rs482.6bn, are at various stages of development, according to a new government port review presentation.

Among the 12 landlord ports, Kolkata (recently renamed Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port) has 143 projects lined up and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (Nhava Sheva) ids moving ahead with 131 projects.

With decades of under-investment, government-controlled ports have lost considerable ground to a new crop of more modern, privately built minor ports, dominated by Adani Group, which operates terminals at 12 locations led by Mundra Port.

To counter these competitive challenges, the government recently put in place legislation to transform major port trusts into a corporate style of management, with greater autonomy commercially and operationally.

Building on the push, it has moved a proposal to rejig the public-private partnership (PPP) model for awarding port development contracts. New concessions will be designed around two models – equip, operate & transfer (EOT) and operate & maintain (O&M) – to “promote PPP and facilitate private sector investment in the port sector ecosystem”, the Ministry of Shipping noted.

EOT will cover projects where cargo berths exist, but the concessionaire will have to install and operate equipment; O&M will be for projects with berth and equipment in place, thus requiring the concessionaire to operate the assets.

On the container front for major ports, the current most notable project is a 2.4m teu capacity addition at JNPT, awarded to PSA International under a two-phase concession deal. Touted as the single largest foreign direct investment into the Indian port lexicon, Phase II was originally due to open in late 2022, but has fallen behind schedule because of Covid disruption and other market challenges.

According to industry sources, under a revised timeline agreed by JNPT, Singapore-based PSA is to begin construction on the second phase next month and commission the project in April 2025. The first phase began operating in February 2018.

As intra-port competition heats up, terminal operators are also making every effort to set new operating benchmarks. The latest example is a $115m investment by APMT Mumbai to raise its cargo handling capabilities through advanced ship-to-shore and rail-mounted gantry crane deployments, aiming increase capacity levels by 10%, to 2.18m teu, annually.

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