Due to the Covid-induced demand slump, the 12 Major Ports handled a combined 477.755 million tonnes (mt) of cargo during April to December 2020, 8.8 per cent lower than the 523.844 mt in the same period last year. Barring Mormugao Port, all the other ports continue to suffer from volume declines. However, the extent of this decline year-on-year has been reducing since July, suggesting a recovery in India’s external trade, according to the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways. Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants (POL) cargo, comprising crude oil, petroleum products, LPG and LNG, other liquids, thermal and steam coal, coking coal, and containers fell by volume during the April to December period compared to last year. Container volumes declined 10.99 per cent to 6.706 million TEUs from 7.534 million TEUs a year ago, said a report.

The South Central Railway zone’s Vijayawada division shipped 2,700 tonnes of soyabean crude oil on Wednesday from Kakinada in East Godavari district to Haldia in West Bengal, marking a victory for its marketing efforts to convert road freight into railway freight.

Soyabean crude oil or degummed soya, has been loaded in as many as 49 BTPN tank wagons to be transported from Kakinada New Goods Complex siding in Andhra Pradesh to Haldia dock complex.

Generally, degummed soyabean crude gets transported by road in small quantities which now has been transported in a large quantity by the railways.

“With the marketing efforts of the Vijayawada division officials, now degummed soya bean has been diverted from roadways to rail transportation,” said a railway zone official.

Vijayawada division has clear focus on the freight segment and the Railways is also continuously monitoring the movement of freight trains right from loading to unloading to cut down on transit time.

“Special emphasis has been given by the newly-constituted business development units (BDU) to create awareness among traders and cargo operators about the benefits being offered by Railways for transportation through rail,” he said.

According to SCR zone officials, BDUs are yielding good results by capturing different segments of traffic apart from retaining regular traffic for transportation through rail.

“This has resulted in freight customers showing interest in transporting their products through rail and assured to offer loading on a regular basis,” he said.

Gajanam Mallya, SCR general manager, advised customers to avail railway transportation as loading by rail is the safest even as he instructed officials to regularly monitor the supply of wagons and train movement to transport products without any hitch.