Downturn saved Indian ports from æfailureÆ
Last year provided a welcome breather for India's constrained seaports, but it might only be a temporary respite as volume through the country's ports begins to swell again.
Sanjay Tejwani director, ocean freight for DHL Global Forwarding India, told American Shipper Monday that India's major container ports were operating at or past capacity in 2008, and that the slowdown in exports in 2009 providing some margin for error.
'We would have seen a failure at Indian ports in 2009 if the economy hadn't faltered,' he said.
However, the breather might be short-lived. While exports fell in 2009 — so much so that India actually imported more than it exported during the year — the trend is reversing this year. And the problem is that new capacity seems a distant dream at India's largest ports — Nhava Sheva (near Mumbai), Chennai and Tuticorin.
Tejwani said court cases are holding up projects at Nhava Sheva and Chennai to the extent that new capacity at those ports isn't likely for at least another two years.
The country will receive a shot in the arm when a 1 million-TEU transshipment terminal near Cochin in southern India opens this fall. But that terminal is designed to lure transshipment cargo to and from India that calls at the Port of Colombo. Tejwani said India's key manufacturing regions are near Mumbai, Chennai and in northern India — far away from the Cochin transshipment terminal.
What's driving increased volumes is not just a recovery in North America and Europe, but also India's flourishing trade with China. Last year saw China become India's biggest trading partner, ahead of the European Union.
That, Tejwani said, 'is changing the way shipping lines and companies like DHL, are deploying their services.'
He said the growth of India's ocean freight industry is limited by terminal development in ports.