India must boost its ports fast to make them globally competitive as the gap with China is widening rapidly, industry body Assocham said on Tuesday.
"India’s total containerised cargo capacity of 8.75 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) at all its 12 major port sis is less than a quarter of containerised goods handled at Shanghai port, making it imperative for us to do a fast catching up," said the Assocham study.
Handling of containerised cargo is a key indicator of a country’s integration with global supply chain for value-added manufactured goods, it said.
The study titled "Indian ports sector: Challenges of scale and efficient operations," was released by Assocham Secretary General, D S Rawat along with chief advisor Arvind Kumar at a press meet here today.
Though Indian ports met rapidly expanding traffic, handling more than a billion tonne of cargo in 2016-17, the capacity is expected to rise to 2.5 billion tonnes by 2025. The freight mainly comprises petrol, oil, and lubricant, coal, iron ore and other commodities, Rawat said.
It is only recently that freight in containers, which are easy to load, unload and carry to the hinterland through multi-modal transport, is catching up in India, he said.
While total containerised cargo volume for the whole of India’s major ports is about 8.75 million TEUs, it is 36.5 million TEUs in Shanghai. China has four ports which handle more than 20 million TEUs, he said quoting the study.
Even on the parameter of overall cargo, both with or without containerisation, India has a fragmented capacity at different ports.
Referring to Odisha, Rawat said setting up 13 non-major ports along its 480 km-long coastline will further boost the prospect of port infrastructure, bring in investment, create thousands of jobs and also add to the revenues of the state exchequer.
The study also suggested that it would be appropriate to augment capacity of existing ports to create ports with large capacity of 100 million tonnes (MT) rather than building new ports and spreading resources thinly.
Noting that for India to remain competitive globally, investment in port capacity is a must, the report said.It also stressed the need to revisit the Major Ports Trusts Act, 1963 with a view to modernise the institutional structure of major ports and to secure greater operational freedom for ports, in tune with present day requirements.