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The 6,000 km long Indian coastline has 12 major ports and 181 minor/ intermediate ports out of which 139 are operable. Indian Ports are the gateways to India's international trade by sea and are handling over 90% of foreign trade.

The major ports are located at Calcutta/ Haldia, Chennai, Cochin, Ennore, Jawaharlal Nehru Port at Nhava Sheva, Kandla, Mormugao, Mumbai, New Mangalore, Paradip, Tuticorin and Vishakhapatnam.

The 12 major Indian ports, which are managed by the Port Trust of India under Central Government jurisdiction, handle 90 percent of the all-India port throughput, and thus bear the brunt of sea borne trade. The 139 minor ports are under the jurisdiction of the respective State Governments. Dry and liquid bulk make up about 80 percent of the port traffic in volume with general cargo, including the containerised cargo, constituting the remaining traffic.

Though the bulk of Indian trade is carried by sea routes, the existing port infrastructure is insufficient to handle trade flows effectively. The current capacity at major ports is overstretched. The major ports together have a capacity of 215 million metric tonnes (MMT) at 1997- 98 levels. During 2001- 2002 , the total cargo handled at major ports was 287.56 million tonnes as against 281.10 million tonnes during 2000- 2001. The traffic for total ports in India was worth 740.3 million tons (MT) in 2009 and this is expected to rise to 1,373.1 MT in 2015. Traffic at major ports is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.6 percent from 2010 to 2015.

The Indian ports sector is poised for significant growth driven by new manufacturing and power projects and higher cargo traffic at ports. Increase in containerized trade coupled with the Government’s active initiatives to develop the Indian ports sector, is expected to further boost the growth. The commissioning of power projects based on imported coal and the setting up of steel projects and offshore exploration and production projects are likely to drive the Indian ports sector.

The situation of limited capacity and high demand has inevitably resulted in port congestion. This results in overstretched berths leading to pre-berthing delays and longer ship turnaround time. In recent years, major investments in port construction have centred on container as well as bulk facilities. Modern equipment exists for container and bulk handling. The equipment- mix for handling general cargo has to be planned and provided in a manner that suits the needs of each port.

However, several major ports lack sufficient draft for large crude tankers. Large vessels are berthed at Colombo, Singapore, or Dubai, and cargo is shipped to India later in smaller vessels, thereby escalating the freight cost. Additionally, all leading ports such as Mumbai, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), Visakhapatnam, and Mormugao handle more cargo than their designed capacities, further contributing to congestion and resulting in a longer turnaround time.

Weak hinterland connectivity is a challenge for most Indian ports, reducing accessibility. Despite investments from the private sector that are encouraging the modernization and development of ports, infrastructure continues to be a major issue.

The Indian Government prioritized the expansion and modernization of ports as part of its five-year plan initiatives in 2007. It has been instrumental in redefining the role of ports from mere trade gateways to integral parts of the global and logistics chain. The Committee of Infrastructure constituted a Committee of Secretaries to recommend time-bound identification and complete connectivity projects to successfully address issues regarding port connectivity. Several projects are underway for the deepening of drafts at major ports as a part of the national maritime development program.

The productivity of ports in terms of Average Ship Turn Around (ASTA) and Average Ship Berth Output (ASBO) has improved in past years. The ASTA has decreased from 8.1 days in 1990- 91 to 7.8 days in 1996-97 to 5.06 days in 1998-99 and further to 4.72 days in 1999-2000 (April-Sept). The average ASBO increased from 3372 tonnes in 1990- 91 to 4,249 tonnes in 1996- 97.

Although the ports in India have shown considerable improvement over years, benchmarking them against the ports in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and Rotterdam reveals that there needs to be marked improvement in many parameters to get Indian ports at par with international standards.

The performance of Indian ports does not compare favorably with that of efficient international ports. On three important parameters- capacity, productivity and efficiency, Indian ports lack in comparison to some of the major international ports. In international terms, labor and equipment productivity levels are still very low due to the outdated equipment, poor training, low equipment handling levels by labor, uneconomic labor practices, idle time at berth, time loss at shift change and high mining scales and low datums.

Private Sector Participation

In keeping with general policy of liberalisation and globalisation of economy of the Government of India, the Port sector has been thrown open to private sector participation. Private Sector participation in provision of port facilities at various major ports is envisaged in a big way. There is no legal bar to private sector participation in port facilities as per the provisions of the existing Major Port Trusts Act, 1963.

The government has been promoting public-private participation in the ports sector on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis, thereby stepping-up capacities and traffic handling at ports, besides enhancing their efficiency.

In order to handle the increase in the sea-borne traffic on account of increase in foreign and coastal trade, major expansion is required in the port infrastructure sector in the country and this will need mobilisation of substantial resources. Hence, the opening up of the port sector for privatisation. It is expected that privatisation would also improve the efficiency, productivity and quality of services and also bring competitiveness in port services. It is also expected that the private sector participation would help bringing in latest technology and improved management techniques. It is felt necessary to encourage the private sector participation in enhancing port capabilities and also in modernisation of port equipment.

Landlord Ports- The Background

There are more than 2,000 seaports active throughout the world to cater to the requirements of sea borne cargo to the volume of around 5.3 billion tonnes. With the growing move for privatisation of the seaports all over the world subsequent to reforms, private sector participation in operations and infrastructure activities of seaports has been increased substantially over the last few years. The has resulted into a radical change in the organisational model of ports, converting form Service Port model to Landlord Port model, where port authority retains the port infrastructure and fulfils its regulatory functions, while port services are provided by private operators that own the assets conforming to port superstructure and equipment required for service provision.

Landlord Ports- The Concept

A 1997 review of the top 100 container ports of the world showed that 88 out of 100 ports conform to the Landlord Port model. In this model, the port authority constitutes a landlord, which manages the basic port assets by letting land and infrastructure to port operators in an efficient manner. The Landlord Port in this model would be involved in planning, lease negotiation, safety, navigation and overall coordinating functions. Cargo services, marine service, ancillary services, berths etc are privatised on captive/BOT basis to the primary port users.

Port operators and other undertakings which need to be located in the Port, lease the land, infrastructure and associated services and provide them to the secondary users - cargo owners, ship owners and cargo ship owners.

With intense competition, the role of Indian ports is changing from a Service port model to a Landlord port model. Here, Ennore Port is an example.

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