Non-major ports are gradually eating into the share of major ports in cargo traffic. Between FY12 and FY18, the share of total cargo traffic held by the non-major ports has risen from 39 per cent to 42 per cent. In the comparable period, major ports have had their market share shrink from 61 per cent to 58 per cent.
A report by the Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), a trust formed by the Ministry of Commerce, says non-major ports are evolving faster than their major counterparts, and are gaining market share as a major chunk of the traffic has shifted to them. What's more, with enhanced private participation in establishment of non-major ports, their cargo traffic has outpaced that of major ports. Key players in private port and terminal operations like Adani Ports & Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) and Essar Ports Ltd are looking to expand footprint across the country.
Private ports have also scored over major ones in attracting imported crude traffic. At the end of 2016-17, the non-major ports handled 191.5 mt of liquid cargo including crude oil imports, surpassing 158.3 mt of major ports.
Data by the Ministry of Shipping shows the non-major ports handled 485.33 million tonnes (mt) traffic in 2016-17. Cargo traffic at such ports has logged 10.01 per cent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2006-07 to 2016-17. By contrast, cargo traffic at major ports recorded a modest 2.73 per cent CAGR between 2007-08 and 2017-18.
“Non-major ports performed better in the last 10 years due to more efficient operations and lesser time to load and unload cargoes. Major ports on the contrary, struggled with less capacity utilisations and a high dependence on bulk cargo. But with the Sagarmala projects taking off, major ports have delivered on cutting turnaround time and grabbing a bigger share of containerized cargo”, said an analyst.
Twelve major ports have been identified under the Sagarmala project for cargo handling till 2035. This project envisages port led development by providing better infrastructure for rapid transport of goods to and from the ports at competitive costs besides aiming at streamlining efficiency.
In 2017-18, the major ports handled 679.36 mt of cargo, recording 4.77 per cent growth. In the current fiscal (as of August end), the cargo growth is 5.13 per cent year-on-year with the combined traffic by major ports totaling 288.38 mt.
Ports sector in the country has received a cumulative FDI (foreign direct investment) of $1.64 billion between April 2000 and June 2018. Total investment on the Indian ports is estimated to reach $43.03 billion by 2020. Around 200 non-major ports (a third of them operational) located strategically on the world's key shipping routes, are expected to profit from the country's robust growth in external trade. The total external trade grew to $763 billion in 2017-18, implying a CAGR of five per cent since 2008-09. Increasing trade is also pushing the demand for containerization. With the combined port capacity envisaged to be ramped up to 3200 mt, the traffic handled is seen at 2500 mt by 2020.