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CAG: Maritime trade suffers Rs 1,400 cr annual loss
March, 15th 2010

Maritime trade in the country loses over Rs 1,400 crore per annum due to poor infrastructure at major ports, despite the Rs 55,800-crore government scheme to develop docks being underway, the country's top auditor has said.

"...deepening projects, critical for the competitiveness of the ports, were neglected. These factors limited the berthing options available to ships, resulting in their queueing for few berths, leading to high pre-berthing detentions... maritime trade in India lost more than Rs 1,400 crore per annum on account of such detention," the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said.

Depths available at the major Indian ports were unable to cater to all types of vessels that plied international waters, it said in its latest report adding, "...dredging undertaken by these ports had not been effective."

"To address the need (capacity augmentation), the (Shipping) Ministry formulated the National Maritime Development Programme (NMDP) in 2005-06, which envisaged an investment of Rs 55,800 crore for the (development of) major ports by 2012," the CAG report said, indicting the Shipping Ministry for poor facilities like cargo handling and night navigation.

A recent government document too pointed out that the average turnaround time of major Indian ports continue to be way below the desired average, undermining their competitiveness.

"Despite adequate capacity and modern handling facilities, the average turnaround time of major Indian ports was 3.87 days in 2008-09, compared to 10 hours in Hong Kong. This undermines the competitiveness of Indian ports," the report had said.

The pre-berthing waiting time at major ports was recorded at 9.55 hours in 2008-09 compared to 11.40 hours in 2007-08. India has 12 major ports, Kandla, Mumbai, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mormugao, New Managalore, Cochin, Kolkata, Haldia, Paradip, Vishakhapatnam, Chennai and Tuticorin, which carry about 75 per cent of the total traffic.

The report also pointed out that cargo handling services of the ports were insufficient for quick handling of cargo like liquid bulk, dry bulk and containers.

"Liquid bulk which primarily consisted of petroleum, oil and lubricants, constituting 33 per cent of the total cargo, faced handling inefficiencies due to slow rates of discharge at specialised berths, leading to high turn-around time of vessels," the report said.

In the case of containers which saw the fastest growth in traffic, around 65 per cent were being handled at privately operated terminals in Chennai, Jawaharlal Nehru Port and Tuticorin," it said.

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