Ports infrastructure needs a revamp to boost chemical exports: Experts

Ports infrastructure needs a revamp to boost chemical exports: Experts

Safety compliant logistics and skilled workforce to handle the chemicals at ports could be a selling point globally for Indian chemical industry

  • By Rahul Koul | June 23, 2022

India’s fast growing chemical industry aspires to be a global manufacturing hub and a leading exporter of chemicals and petrochemicals. To be able to create an impact globally, the industry is seeking world class port infrastructure for better logistics performance, higher maritime trade, economic growth and higher yield. Despite the existing constraints and challenges, experts are confident that well-equipped ports with bigger storage capacities and safety compliant logistics of chemicals would soon become a reality. They also emphasize the need for adequate development of non-major ports and favorable policies.

The handling capacities at the Indian ports is far lesser as compared to global standards and needs immediate attention in terms of expansion, feels Manu Mori, Senior General Manager - Commercial/International Logistics, Meghmani Organics.

“India currently has 12 major ports and 205 notified minor ports. All ports are mostly situated in nine coastal states, namely Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Most of the Indian ports were set up many years ago and need to be upgraded at a considerable cost. There have been indications that the design of existing ports is inadequate to meet the current requirement for the quick turnaround and handling of the increased volumes which is causing delays in the cargo movement. Some ports are not designed to cater to large or ultra large vessels. Among the challenges with respect to the existing ports are inadequate road network within port area, inadequate cargo handling and machine equipment. This inefficiency is due to the poor hinterland connectivity through the rail, road and railways, and inadequate navigational aids facilities of the IT system and lack of technique and equipment for handling such large volumes.The turnaround time in India therefore remains absolutely dismal. The government and the port authorities have to take appropriate action to bridge such gaps," says Mori.

Mori spoke at the E-conference on "Ports: Enabling Growth of Chemical Industry" organized by Indian Chemical News on June 21, 2022. The well attended virtual event was moderated by Pravin Prashant, Editor, Indian Chemical News.

"In South Gujarat at Hazira port which is the best suitable part for Gujarat chemical industries, there is a space constraint. All the exporters have to send their material by road due to unavailability of rail, leading to delay in shipment. There are 219 tanks at Hazira and they plan to develop 50 tanks which will boost export volume for the chemical industry. If we look at the Antwerp port, it has 3,50000 cubic metre capacity with 1,500 tanks for chemical storage. At Hazira, we have 4,25000 KL with only 219 tanks. In Mundra, we have only 4,2000 KL capacity with only 97 tanks. In Gujarat, there is Pandit Deendayal Port at Kandla with only 12,08000 KL capacity. At GCPDCL situated in Dahej, which is a major chemical port, there is a capacity of 4,80000 KL and only 37 tanks are there. Compared to international standards, we have lesser storage in terms of tanks," adds Mori.

As per Dr. Rafi Shaik, Founder & Chief Scientific Officer, Carbanio, there is an ideal opportunity for Make in India for the petrochemical industry to address the import dependency and improve performance in exports.  

Shaik elaborates his point: "Few of the intermediates producing specialty chemicals are essential for almost all the consumer technology products, be it LEDs and material science. India has been facing a deficit in almost all the petrochemicals, leading to import dependency. Therefore, there is a significant growth opportunity and we can achieve huge  growth through fresh initiatives  to reduce our imports and make Indian self sustainable. The policies and initiatives by the government have to address the foreign imports and make India a global petrochemical and chemical manufacturing hub. The growth opportunities are huge and India has to capture more than US$ 100 billion market by 2025."

"Currently Indian chemical market size is going over US$ 260 billion market and it's growing at an average rate of 9% to 30%. To take it to the next level and make it accessible to the world, we are completely depending on the logistics and supplies. The Indian government is providing many facilities, making the material from ports accessible within 24 to 48 hours. For exporting to other countries, we are completely dependent on ports and these are a must to tap the US $100 billion market opportunity every year. For that, creating infrastructure for expansion of existing ports and also leveraging the current facilities in the best ways is important, he adds.

Captain Ram Iyer, India Representative, Haropa Port feels that there's always a room for improvement in terms of revamping existing infrastructure at the ports and following the safety standards while storing and handling chemicals during shipping.

"There are two things when we look at Chemicals from an Indian perspective. One is shipment of chemicals, hazardous and non-hazardous in bulk mode and the container ratio mode. The chemicals in India are normally shipped in smaller tankers and these sorts of ports as well as terminals for shipping are far and few. If you look at the geography of India, the ports are mostly Gujarat. When we talk of containerised export of hazardous goods, we need to focus on safe travel and important aspects of safety and compliance because at the end of the day, this is the only thing that matters. These are close to about 10% of all containerised cargo and that is a very significant amount. Challenge is that despite all the regulations, the casualties are still so common. Every year we hear about one major accident on average. The storage of chemicals must be a top priority for a manufacturer which has not been provided enough attention and also the safe transportation," says Captain Iyer.  

"Our commitment to our overseas clients is very important. Thereafter, we must look at how we are stuffing it in our country. The inner packing and the outer packing? Is it certified? Is our declaration proper? Is the MSDS what we are submitting? Sensitizing the workforce over handling of such chemicals needs to be addressed. Basics such as warehousing, packing, storing, certification all have a room for improvement. The facilities at ports must be effectively used with safe and compliant logistics being selling points of the Indian chemical industry," adds Iyer.  

“The chemical requirements have definitely changed. The risks associated with chemicals in terms of health and environment have changed and people are talking more about these now. In fact, now safety and compliance remain at the top of the agenda during discussions with our customers,” says Bhavesh Baretha, Head - Chemical Vertical, South Asia, Maersk.

"We have found that the support at ports is lacking in terms of safe handling due to lack of skilled workforce. Imparting such skills by the industries is critical for safety. When we talk about exports, we have to match our standards with European, US, African and other big countries. We have to stop taking shortcuts and address the shortcomings. In terms of change, a lot of new ports have come up in India, especially the five hubs in the West and South-East. In Western region, Gujarat has few key ports such as Hazira and Mundra which have been developed amazingly in the last 10 years. From a shipping point of view, there has been a shift from west coast to north-west coast and then on the east side, Haldia deals mostly with petrochemical products. Going forward, we can see the development happening at Vizag port,” opines Baretha.

“A lot of big companies are investing in these ports as the idea is to make investments to make the supply chain better and to increase the reach. A lot of shipping lines have come in and things are shaping up stage wise. Sagarmala project to develop new ports is a welcome initiative and project Unnati has been launched to improve efficiency of all major 12 ports in India to unlock more than 100 MMTA capacity. The greenfield ports are being developed including Vadhavan in Maharashtra, Sagar Island in Maharashtra and Paradip in Orissa. Similarly, in Tamil Nadu too, there are initiatives to improve the efficiency of ports," concludes Baretha.                             

Click here to attend largest industry gathering at NextGen Chemicals & Petrochemicals Summit 2022

Upcoming E-conferences

NextGen Chemical & Petrochemical Summit 2022

July 21, 2022

Other Related stories