COVID Impact: Cargo Handling At Ports Declines 17% to 245 mn tonnes in April-August

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Affected by disturbances caused due to COVID-19, India’s important ports continued to behold a decline in cargo handling, recording a 16.56 per cent drop to 245.04 million tonnes (MT) between April and August this financial year, according to the apex ports body IPA.

Cargo quantities at these 12 major ports under the direction of the Centre decreased for the fifth straight month in August 2020, and all ports barring Mormugao saw an adverse growth. These 12 ports had collectively managed 293.67 MT of cargo during April-August 2018-19, the Indian Ports Association (IPA) said in its latest report.

Ports, including Cochin, Chennai, and Kamrajar, noticed their cargo volumes drop about 30 per cent during April-August, while JNPT and Kolkata experienced a decline of over 20 per cent.

India has 12 major ports under the control of the central government that include Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), New Mangalore, Mumbai, JNPT, Mormugao, Cochin, Visakhapatnam, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), V O Chidambarnar, Paradip, and Kolkata (including Haldia).

While the Kamarajar port witnessed a 31.64 per cent drop in cargo handling to 9.11 MT, the Chennai port experienced a decline of 30.36 per cent to 14.42 MT in April-August, as per IPA data.
Cochin Port noticed a fall of 29.88 per cent to 10.04 MT during the period.

Cargo handling at JNPT port fell 25.53 per cent to 21.68 MT, while the same at Kolkata declined 23.74 per cent to 20.65 MT. Mumbai port logged a reduction of 19.31 per cent to 20.15 MT.
In the light of the COVID-19 outbreak, intense drops were observed in the handling of containers, coal, and POL ( oil, petroleum, and lubricant), among other products.

These ports supervise about 61 per cent of the country’s total cargo traffic. These ports managed 705 MT of cargo past financial year.

The cargo handling has been dropped due to less physical interactions and a lack of human resources on the ports as a safety measure due to the pandemic COVID-19.

The primary reason behind the drop in the rate of cargo handling is the lack of human resources. The cut down in the port authorities and stevedore has reduced the rate of cargo loading and discharging.

For example, a bulk carrier loading time is taking two to three days for loading and discharging, and due to lack of workforce to adhere to the COVID-19 norms, it may take up to one week or more for loading and discharging. The cargo handling capacity loss has been reported due to the lack of human resources that further leads to a drop in cargo handling rate.

There is another approach to the fall in cargo handling rate that is a money angle. The decline in cargo handling rate causes heavy financial losses to the owners of the cargo, ship owners, and charters. This happens because shipping works on a defined time-lapse, and if the ship owners are unable to deliver the cargo on time, then there are chances of huge financial losses.

Another effect of loss in the rate of cargo handling there may be chances of volatile or perishable cargo that includes fishes, fruits, vegetables, and more can get spoil as they have a fixed time-bound.

Hence cargo handling capacity is important for the proper functioning of ports and ships. The rate of cargo handling loss has affected shipping and naval transportation worldwide.

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