New Delhi, July 12 | India has forever held a strategic advantage due to its well-established marine ports and to unlock the export potential to achieve the dream of building a $5 trillion economy, some of the PPP concessions at the major ports handling single commodity have appealed to newly-appointed Ports, Shipping and Waterways Minister Sarbananda Sonowal for policy interventions and that their license should be converted to handle multiple commodities.
These private terminal operators have requested the newly chaired Shipping Minister to review decade old policies towards attaining the dream of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat.
With the newly granted commercial mining license for 50 coal blocks, the imports of coal have declined since the auction has enhanced domestic coal sufficiency but on the other hand, single commodity handling terminals importing in the country are struggling to survive due to low import volumes arising out of government policies discouraging imports.
This has started to affect the financial viability of BOT operators as the volume of imports have got reduced and available storage yards are choked due to less evacuation. BOT operators are currently limited to handling only coal which is classified as ‘Stressed Assets’ due to under-utilization of the installed capacities.
In the same context, Indian Private Ports and Terminals Association (IPPTA) had written to the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW) few months back, appealing for urgent policy interventions to maximize the capacity utilisation and efficiency of single cargo handling terminals.
Of late, there have been significant market disruptions hampering the functioning of these Terminals. It is difficult to manage risk due to Court Orders banning the import/export of cargo, government policies discouraging imports and significant disruptions in market conditions etc. Examples worthwhile for consideration are PPP projects such as Adani Vizag Port coal handling terminal, Visakhapatnam Port, Steal Iron ore terminal Pvt. Ltd, New Mangalore Port and Chennai Bunkering Terminal Pvt. Ltd, Chennai Port which were under termination process whereas Vedanta owned Vizag General Cargo berth Pvt. Ltd, Vishakhapatnam Port is struggling to survive due to low import volumes.
Over the years, marine ports have played a key role in enhancing the country’s role as a global player. If restrictions on handling only one commodity are lifted from these private operators, they can play a key role in strengthening the economy further.
Needless to mention, it will also exponentially add to the livelihoods of those directly employed by the sector. Covid-19 added to their economic distress due to the global and national economic slowdown leading to job losses, but this can be reversed if single port operators are provided the opportunity to expand their terminal potential. This will allow them to amplify their contribution towards employment generation systematically, strengthen the state exchequer and sustain livelihoods.