After months of operational disruptions since COVID-19 breakout, Indian ports are returning to stabilising their goods movement. APM Terminals Pipavav Managing Director Jakob Friis Sorenson said all the shipping lines had reduced their capacity to 20-25 per cent in the last year. It is getting normalised now.
"In India, the supply-demand situation is reaching some sort of equilibrium. We see the volume picking up in February at Pipavav port. The outlook is better this year," he said.
After Chinese New Year, international ports traffic is a bit unstable because of backlog of full containers in Europe and US. In Los Angeles, there are many containers that are backlogged, say industry experts.
Normally in January, ports don't witness spike because of Chinese New Year, which is a week-long holiday. However, the traffic increased dramatically this time because of backlog at all international hub ports like Salalah, Shenzhen, Singapore and Colombo, said Sorenson.
With exports picking up and imports coming down, India is facing an acute shortage of containers that are used for transhipment of goods. India has around 15 lakh containers. However, it is harvest time for shipping lines as they are allocating empty containers to locations where they fetch high freight rates, said Sorenson.
APM Terminals Pipavav is looking to increase its service to northern markets through rail connectivity. It also plans to upgrade crane capabilities by infusing Rs 700 crore. Pipavav port has also cut down the turn around time to 24 hours.
The average turnaround time of ships at country's major ports fell from 4 days in 2014-15 to 2.59 days in 2019-20, according to the Economic Survey 2020-21. However, this had increased to 2.62 days during April-September 2020 because of shortage of operators at ports during the pandemic restrictions.
"In the non-container business, we have seen the bulk cargo grow strongly in 2020, especially for fertiliser. So we expanded fertiliser warehouse, where we convert the bulk cargo into bags and load the bags into rail wagons. We also have an approval for a capacity upgrade which includes 10,000 sq meters of container freight station warehouse for fertilizer," said Sorenson.