In a candid conversation with Infrastructure Today, I Jeyakumar, Chairman, Mormugao Port Trust, puts forth the challenges faced by ports and his views on the way ahead.
The government has pledged to double tonnage capacity at major state-owned ports. Does this promise hold good?
Well, Mormugao Port has submitted a road map for the next five years to the Ministry whereby port capacity will be increased from present 32.76 MTPA to 57.82 MTPA.
The government has also allowed 100 per cent FDI under the automatic route. Has this improved investor sentiment?
Yes. Port development project investors always show inclination if projects are having proper evacuation routes- evacuation in terms of road links, rail links and waterways links. Infrastructure investments are fraught with long gestation and slow returns. Therefore, in order to attract high capital investments, investors should be adequately encouraged by such incentives.
How will ´Make in India´ help to drive the growth of the port sector?
In the process of ´Make in India´, import of raw material and export of finished products will increase, which in turn will contribute towards the growth of the port sector.
Finished goods are generally exported through containerised cargo. Cargo such as steel plates, steel slabs, coils, etc., need to be directly loaded into the vessel as most of the trade chooses sea route, thus leading towards increase of throughput in the port sector.
What are the reasons why port projects get delayed/stalled? Is there a huge chunk of delayed projects?
Most port projects are getting delayed on account of permissions to be obtained from different government agencies in order to comply with project prospectives and due to approval during public hearing.
What solutions do you suggest?
Environment clearance take the maximum time. There are many agencies such as GSPCB, GCZMA, Expert Appraisal Committee, Public Hearings, etc., where role of state government in recom¡mending different clearances is larger.
In order to overcome the delay, the processes need to be time-bound. A single window system will further help overcome hurdles. At every step, there should be time limitations within which permits, clearances or recommen¡dations should be granted failing which the project should be termed as de-facto approved.
Do you have any immediate plans for rail connectivity to your port?
SPV has been formed for port connectivity rail projects. This will enable ports to execute port connectivity projects at a faster pace, which will facilitate evacuation of cargo rapidly. Mormugao Port is connected with South Western Railway seamlessly with single line. If doubling of line is executed, then lot of goods or cargo can be expected. Mormugao is also connected with Konkan Railway, but there is no industrial corridor along this route. As a result, the port has not benefited.
What steps do you expect to make the PPP model viable in the port sector?
Investors in public private partnership (PPP) model are taking risks in terms of cost of project and traffic forecast. If the region has road and rail connectivity where the primary or secondary hinterland is located, and if it is industrially developed, then it will lead to movement of cargo and expected traffic can be achieved. Similarly, the cost effectiveness of a project largely depends on the chosen site. Hence, prior to choosing the site, if proper studies are conducted, challenges encountered during execution of the project can be overcome and necessary steps can be taken in order to reduce cost and time overruns. Thus, PPP model can be made viable which will attract investors and make the sector attractive.
What changes do you expect to bring the sector on the growth path?
The Ministry of Shipping has recently appointed a consultant for Sagar Mala Project, whereby many minor ports are likely to be set up along the coastline with proper connectivity to road and rail traffic and with deeper depths.
What are the plans this fiscal and next?
Dubling of rail line from Vasco to Tinaighat, deepening of channel and completion of the balance four-lane highw
ay road are envisaged by Mormugao Port so as to have faster and better growth. What are the challenges?
For Mormugao Port, the challenges are:
1. Road connectivity to port - Existing road connectivity is a two-lane road passing through Vasco City. City traffic and port cargo traffic result in traffic congestion. Additionally, Indian Oil Terminal is also located within the city, resulting in additional congestion. In order to overcome traffic congestion in the city, a four-lane bypass has been proposed. This four-lane road connectivity will cater to all the heavy traffic and all other traffic which can bypass the city. Four-lane road connectivity, i.e., NH 17 B from Mormugao Port to National Highway 17 at Verna is proposed for a total length of 18.3 km, of which 13.1 km is already complete and opened for public. Balance stretch of 5.2 km will be executed by the state government. Work order is expected to be issued shortly. Time for completion will be 36 months. On completion, the port road connectivity will improve from port to hinterland.
2. Rail connectivity to port- Port is connected to South Western Railway through Vasco Railway Station, which is presently single track section from Vasco to Tinaighat. The primary hinterland of port sector is industrialised area of Hospet Bellary region which is well-connected by South Western Railway. This sector is operating at cent per cent capacity and fetching a good revenue for railways. Mormugao Port dispatches raw material such as coal and coke required for steel industries and in turn the port receives cargo such as steel plate, HR coils, steel slabs, CR coils, MS wire coil, granite blocks, etc. The doubling of this track will definitely boost cargo throughput of Mormugao Port. Capacity wise port has developed, but mismatch is observed in evacuation of cargo. This leads to under-utilisation of capacity. South Western Railway has recently carried out survey in order to finalise doubling of track between Vasco and Tinaighat.
3. Storage- Port is finding difficulties in storage of cargo as city is enveloped around the periphery of Mormugao Port; no vacant space is available to be used for cargo storage. The only alternate available is to create cargo storage space by reclamation. In the process of reclamation, all necessary studies will have to be conducted and which will have to be produced before the MoEF in the form of EIA Report. MoEF will then issue necessary clearances based on the various recommen¡dations received from GSPCB, GCZMA and Expert Appraisal Committee. Getting approval from public hearing is also part of environment clearance. All these processes are taking a long time. Hence, for the successful imple¡mentation of projects, the ports sector has to overcome these hurdles.