- Press Digest
- World’s biggest ship skips India in blow to its trade goals
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2023 January 11
World’s biggest ship skips India in blow to its trade goals
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of making India the world’s factory risks being held back by the country’s inability to attract bigger container ships due to inadequate port infrastructure.
Most harbours along India’s coast are not deep enough to handle vessels like the Ever Alot, the world’s largest boxship at 400m long and with a capacity of more than 24,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). Neighbouring Sri Lanka as well as Malaysia have in recent months received visits from the Ever Alot, which can rival the Empire State Building in length.
India’s biggest state-run container handling facility, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, lacks the 17m draft needed for such vessels to navigate. One facility that has said it can handle the behemoth – Mundra Port, operated by billionaire Gautam Adani’s conglomerate – has so far been skipped. The 17,292-TEU APL Raffles is the biggest vessel to have berthed there, in January 2022 with 13,159 TEUs on board.
“Ultra-large ships provide economies of scale,” said Mr Shailesh Garg, a director at Drewry Maritime Advisors. “However, increasing the vessel size alone will not help in speeding up the movement of goods to and from the hinterland.”
Road and rail links from ports to warehouses, factories and shops also need to be improved, he said.
Poor shipping connectivity has hindered India’s integration into the global value chain (GVC), according to a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) report in 2022. The country scored 34 per cent in the GVC participation index compared with 45.9 per cent for the 10-member Asean, the RBI said. Vietnam was above 50 per cent in the gauge, according to a separate report.
Mundra Port hosted APL Raffles three years after Vietnam welcomed a similar-class ship, illustrating how Asia’s third-largest economy risks falling behind in the competition for a bigger share of trade as businesses move away from China. Mundra is India’s highest-ranking port in terms of performance, sitting at 48th in an index compiled by the World Bank Group and S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Weak infrastructure is undermining Mr Modi’s target to lift the share of manufacturing to 25 per cent of gross domestic product from 14 per cent and increase the nation’s slice in global goods exports to 3 per cent by 2027 and to 10 per cent by 2047, up from 2.1 per cent now.
“The existing port and terminal infrastructure in India do limit the possibility of utilising the full strength of ultra large vessels,” said AP Moller-Maersk in an e-mail reply to queries. Some factors include “the draft in the ports, cranes at terminals used for loading and unloading cargo, port throughput capacity”.
The other thing to consider, according to Maersk, which is the world’s second-largest container shipping line, is that Indian importers and exporters are spread across the country, and it is more cost and time effective to send and receive cargo through a port closer to their operations.
“In such a case, smaller vessels offer flexibility to go to more ports and move smaller volumes, than concentrate on a single hub,” Maersk said.
“Development of maritime capacity will be key to competing with China and other emerging manufacturing hubs in South-east Asia and other regions,” said Drewry’s Mr Garg. “China has a far more developed and efficient port and logistics infrastructure.”
In terms of container throughput, India’s 16 million TEUs as at December 2020 compares with 245 million TEUs for China, according to London-based data analysis firm CEIC Data.
While only 0.7 per cent of the operational global container fleet is comprised of vessels with a draft of 17m or deeper, these larger ships are becoming more vital to Europe and China trade. That is a route that India can be part of, given its strategic location between the Suez Canal and the Strait of Malacca.
Vizhinjam port in south India’s Kerala is a deep-sea facility with a natural draft of 20m to 24m, so it is capable of attracting bigger ships. It is expected to be operating by 2024, said Mr Roy Paul, a spokesman for Adani Group, which is developing the project.
Another port in Maharashtra that has a natural draft of 18m is expected to be completed in 2028, according to the government’s Maritime India Vision 2030.
2023 March 28
Race to escape import dependence
The withdrawal of foreign suppliers has become an endurance test for the domestic industry including the shipbuilding. Many companies have managed to pass the stress test successfully but in some cases the difficulties are inevitable. There are problems with the critical ship equipment: engines, power plants, steering machinery, etc. An efficient interaction between private investors and the state supported by mutual guarantees is to be established to solve the problems. Race to escape import dependence