Amid ever-intensifying competition and continued weak demand, APM Terminals Pipavav — a minor cargo gateway on India’s west coast — has embarked on a whirlwind trade outreach program to highlight the benefits of its recent ease-of-doing-business measures and other plans under way.
The minor port operator — located about 150 nautical miles from Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) — recently held a public session at Diu in Gujarat state with representatives from the local shipping community — including ocean carrier agents, forwarders, brokers, and logistics providers. That effort comes just a month after the company set up a similar event in New Delhi for the northern maritime fraternity.
APM Terminals Pipavav officials provided participants with more insight into the paperless gate operations’ advantages introduced at the terminal in May. Under the digital program, drivers need not present Form 13 documents in hard copy form — a tedious task — on each visit, which typically causes long lines and resultant congestion at port gates.
Further, officials said gate automation has already led to a substantial decrease in truck trips — estimated at as high as 3 million kilometers (about 1.9 million miles) thus far, in addition to reducing related carbon emissions.
“The objective of the event was to bring together the key stakeholders on a common platform to promote business networking and provide an opportunity for discussions and deliberations on trade promotion measures, business issues, etc.,” the company stated. “It also provided a platform for showcasing the port’s infrastructure developments and cargo handling capabilities.”
APM Terminals Pipavav — touted as India’s first public-private-partnership port venture — is a multi-purpose harbor, capable of handling 1.35 million TEU, as well as 5 million metric tons (5.5 million tons) of dry bulk, 2 million metric tons of liquid bulk cargo, and about 250,000 finished cars, annually.
Officials also said the company will soon open a “dedicated express gate” for reefer cargo handled by road, along with customs examination infrastructure upgrades for such traffic.
Those efforts to generate additional hinterland cargo come in the wake of new service additions at the terminal — such as Maersk Line’s Far East-Indian Subcontinent Service (FI3), a five-vessel CI6 service from Cosco Container Lines and Wan Hai Lines, and the PS3 service operated by the Ocean Network Express alliance with direct connectivity to US West Coast ports — along with a substantial increase in cargo-handling capacity on the strength of new quay crane deployments and yard improvements.
That growth push may also have stemmed from a volume downtrend seen at the terminal in the first two fiscal months, with April-May traffic totaling 135,510 TEU, compared with 142,092 TEU in the prior two months.
The company has also been targeting liquid and roll-on, roll-off cargo to maximize capacity utilization, which paid off in fiscal 2017-2018 with a 49 percent year-over-year surge in liquid traffic.
Still, despite the aforementioned efforts, the road ahead is expected to be bumpy for APM Terminals Pipavav, given the challenges posed by closest private rival Adani Group-owned Mundra Port and the 2.4 million-TEU capacity addition from a new PSA International terminal at JNPT. No doubt, that would mean more pressure for all players in the west coast region, unless demand grows at a faster rate. Further, to take advantage of expected incremental gains from the ongoing battle among terminals for market share, major carriers operating to/from this region have expanded their routings with multiple port options. For example, Mediterranean Shipping Company recently upgraded its India-Europe service network with regular weekly sailings from JNPT, Mundra, and Hazira.