India maritime executive calls out port progress
The lack of progress in development of India's port infrastructure has one shipping line executive in the country quite upset.
At a logistics conference in Mumbai last month, Ishwar Achanta, managing director of Viking Shipping Chennai, said that delays at India's ports have become almost unbearable.
'Non-working time at berth is anywhere between 18 to 43 percent, depending on which port you're talking about,' Achwanta said. 'Just think what that means for chartered vessels. Average turnaround time is 3.3 days, which is down from five to six days (mostly because ships at JNPT, which turns around fast), but it's still not nearly good enough. When someone pays $60,000 a day for a Panamax vessel, 24 hours is expensive.'
In 2007, India is forecast to reach 623 million tons of ocean freight and by 2011, it is projected to surpass 1 billion tons.
'The problem is, the current port capacity is only about 400 million tons,' Achwanta said. 'And I don't see any additional capacity beyond maybe 100 million tons.'
Achwanta places the blame on port authorities for not having the vision to plan for future growth, even today.
'We talk about reducing logistics costs, where do we cut into them?' Achwanta said. 'Look at our infrastructure needs. There are 140 berths in Indian ports and we're in dire need of better cargo handling equipment. And yet we're investing in cranes that have an output of 10,000 to 20,000 tons per berth instead of 30,000 ones that are available. We don't have the berths or the drafts to handle bigger ships. And worse, we don't really have a dredging policy.'
Achwanta specifically said that maritime experts should be in charge of the nation's ports, particularly the state-run port trusts.
'I'd like to see retired maritime officers educated to run these ports, rather than bureaucrats who have no specialized training to operate as directors,' he said.