The average turnaround time for ships at major ports in India has reduced by 35 percent over the last six years, indicating a significant improvement in the country’s port management infrastructure.
Ports are considered major growth drivers as they play an important role in a country’s economic development. One of the key indicators to measure the efficiency of ports is turnaround time — the time a ship spends entering, unloading, loading and exiting the port — which has improved considerably over the past few years.
Ships’ average turnaround at the country’s major ports fell from 4 days in 2014-15 to 2.59 days in 2019-20, according to the Economic Survey 2020-21, released last month. However, this has increased from 2.48 days in 2018-19, and is likely to rise further in the current year (2.62 days during April-September 2020-21).
“As per the latest UNCTAD data, the median ship turnaround time globally is 0.97 days, suggesting that India has room to further improve upon the efficiency at ports,” the Economic Survey said.
About 95 percent of India’s trade by volume and 68 percent by value moves through maritime transport. India has 12 major ports and 200 minor ports along its 7,517-km-long coastline, which acts as a natural resource for facilitating trade.
The total cargo capacity of the country’s major ports rose to 1,534.91 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) at the end of March 2020, from 871.52 MTPA at end-March 2014.
“A consistent growth of around 6 percent was maintained in overall port traffic between 2015-16 and 2018-19. It decelerated to 1.98 percent in 2019-20 before falling sharply in 2020 owing to the lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Economic Survey said.
Port efficiency can shape countries’ trade competitiveness. Every hour of port time saved by ships translates into savings in port infrastructure expenditure for ports, ship capital costs for carriers, and inventory holding outlays for shippers, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
Pradip port along the eastern coast in Odisha has shown the biggest improvement in reducing the turnaround time of ships from 7 days in 2014-15 to less than 3 days.
Cochin port in Kerala recorded the lowest (1.66 days) turnaround time, while Mormugao (3.94 days) in Goa has the highest among all the major ports.
A study was conducted for measuring efficiency and productivity of major ports to bring them on par with international standards. The study identified 116 port-wise action points of which 93 were completed, which resulted in reduction of turnaround time, the government had informed parliament in November 2019.
Cargo traffic at Indian ports is estimated to reach 2500 MMTPA by 2025, for which the government has prepared a roadmap for increasing the capacity to 3300+ MMTPA under the Sagarmala project. This includes port operational efficiency improvement, capacity expansion of existing ports and new port development.