Covid-19 crisis: Port cargo picking up, but still lower than last year's

JNPT, the country’s largest container port, reported 352,735 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in August against 344,316 TEUs in July and 433,986 TEUs in the corresponding month last year
Almost all major ports witnessed a sharp drop in cargo traffic during April-August 2020 compared to the same period last year. However, the fall has started narrowing down every month. 

The fall in cargo at 12 major ports — administered by the central government — was 10 per cent in August compared to the same month in 2019. 

“Business is gradually returning to normal and mainly picking up from the export side. In August, we covered 98.5 per cent of what we did in July. Compared to August 2019, we have covered about 82 per cent of the cargo volumes,” said a senior traffic official at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT). 

JNPT, the country’s largest container port, reported 352,735 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in August against 344,316 TEUs in July and 433,986 TEUs in the corresponding month last year. 


“We are not offering any discounts to attract customers but have set up 24x7 sector-wise offices to address client grie­vances. This is helping sort out issues, and in turn, aiding cargo volumes,” said the official. According to the Indian Ports Association (IPA) data, traffic handled by major ports stood at 245 million tonne during April-August 2020, down 16.56 per cent from same period last year.

Kamarajar Port (earlier known as Ennore Port) reported the biggest drop in volumes of close to 32 per cent for the eight months.

“Kamarajar Port will take a couple of months to bounce back as import of thermal coal has dropped significantly due to weak demand from power plants, both private and Tamil Nadu state units. We are not doing anything specific to bring back trade but Tamil Nadu, which is using wind energy, will return to coal in the next couple of months. This will push up coal demand again,” said A Karuppiah, chief manager (traffic) at Kamarajar Port.

“The sequential month-on-month rise in traffic is largely due to the phased opening up of the economy, post lockdown. Coal traffic at major ports has been improving, with opening up of industries, leading to a rise in power demand,” said Isha Chaudhary, director, CRISIL Research. 

Among the private port players, Essar Ports is consistently maintaining cargo volumes at above 4.2 million tonnes. Adani Ports remained relatively insulated from the overall tough business climate as unlocking started across the country.

“Containerised cargo forms about 20-30 per cent of the total throughput of major ports and has surely picked up. But the unlocking phase has helped demand pick up across sectors,” said Shailesh Garg, analyst with maritime consultants Drewry.






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