Watch: JNPT's Neeraj Bansal explains how the port increased throughput despite a numbing slowdown

Neeraj Bansal feels JNPT could have bettered this performance had it not been for some industrial unrest that affected a couple of transport operators

RN Bhaskar October 15, 2016 11:04:13 IST
Watch: JNPT's Neeraj Bansal explains how the port increased throughput despite a numbing slowdown

During the past one year, JNPT has embarked on a journey towards transforming itself. As Neeraj Bansal, deputy chairman, JNPT, puts it, in the past one year the “progress of JNPT has been fantastic”. Throughput at JNPT’s terminals stood at 104.4 million TEUs (tone equivalent units) during 2015-16, the highest ever in the history of JNPT. According to Bansal, JNPT could have bettered this performance had it not been for some industrial unrest that affected a couple of transport operators.

JNPT could do this by focusing on decongesting the port’s roads. “What we’ve done is taken 10% load off the roads.” Since February 2015, JNPT has finally succeeded in changing the way transporters move their trucks into and out of JNPT.

Watch JNPTs Neeraj Bansal explains how the port increased throughput despite a numbing slowdown

Neeraj Bansal, deputy chairman, JNPT.

Earlier, truckers came into the terminal to drop cargo, and then went out. They then waited for their turn to be called to pick up cargo and then leave. During the intervening period, the trucker used to wait outside JNPT, often on the roads, thus adding to the congestion.

JNPT’s now changed all this. It has streamlined things in such a way that the trucker comes into JNPT, drops the cargo, and then moves on to the area where cargo which needs to be picked up is waiting for him. He picks it up and then leaves JNPT. "In one trip, the trucker does two commercial transactions,” explains Bansal. Thus the trucker is happy, JNPT has less congestion, and the customer and the ship owners are also happy.

As a result “in August 2016 we have handled almost 26,000 transactions”. With the streamlining of truck movement, JNPT expects to push this number to 30,000 transactions per month. Debottlenecking the roads was thus a game-changer.

JNPT had to do this. After all, it is the landowner of the territory where three terminal operators work. One terminal is operated by JNPT itself (JNPCT). Another terminal, Gateway Terminals (GTI) is operated by APM. The third, NSICT, is operated by DPW (DP World).

There are other things that JNPT has done during the past year.

There was a big problem with trucks that brought factory stuffed containers to the port. These transporters are important because they account for almost 70 percent of the cargo that comes into or goes out from JNPT. Earlier such trucks would come to the port and try and complete their documentation there.

To do this, the truckers would park their vehicles by the roadside thus adding to the congestion. So JNPT decided to create separate parking lots for each of the private terminal operators first. It gave them six hectares of parking space so that their truckers would not have to wait by the roadside for any reason.

Last month JNPT set up a parking lot for its own terminal as well. Thus each of the three terminal operators is responsible for ensuring that none of its truckers remains parked on the access roads to the port at any time.

The plan is now to connect each of these parking areas directly to the port gates. Each truck will be RFID tagged. This will ensure more discipline on the port roads. Concurrently gate automation is being worked on. The gates of GTI and NSICT have already been automated, and the JNPT terminal (JNPCT) gates will be automated this month.

JNPT has also created a 25-member strong port traffic team. Its job will be to coordinate with the traffic police to ensure that there is no congestion at all on the roads leading to the port. CCTVs are also being installed on all critical areas of the port roads to allow the team to know what is happening on different port roads at any given moment.

JNPT is also trying to regulate traffic movement by studying peak and non-peak hours on its port roads. Since 30 percent of the cargo comes from Container Freight Stations, which are better organised than individual truckers, the port authorities have been working with them to try see if their goods get transported only when the independent trucker traffic movement is low.

Last year, JNPT which runs its own terminal (JNPCT), saw business swell by 10%. This was impressive considering that it is a government-owned and managed terminal – unlike the other two terminals which are managed and operated by global giants like APM and DP World.

Historically, JNPT managed around 1.3 million TEUs (tone equivalent units) annually. Last year, it handled 1.43 million TEUs. This meant that it added almost 1.4 lakh containers. This was despite the economic slowdown afflicting India and the world, and some problems that JNPT experienced with its cranes.

During Jan-Mar 2016, JNPCT was working with 8 cranes instead of 9. Even the first three months of the same financial year saw it using only 6 cranes instead of 9.

During the current financial year, JNPT expects its performance to remain quite good. During the first four months of this financial year, JNPCT has seen a growth of 12 percent over the 10 percent growth of last year.

“This year we are expecting some 15 lakh containers thus unlocking the potential of our terminal," Bansal said. Throughput is seen at 4.49 million TEUs at his own terminal.

There are concerns, however. Global trade is at a low. “The number of empties has increased,” explains Bansal. As a result, during the first three months of the current financial year, JNPCT saw a negative growth. But the last two months have been better. The result, in five months JNPCT has grown by 2 percent. For the entire year, Bansal expects a growth of 5 percent.

In August 2014, JNPT had a huge ICD (container) pendency of 18,000 TEUs (tone equivalent units). This added huge time and cost overruns to exporters and importers. Since then, JNPT has been working towards streamlining railway operations.

Today, the ICD pendency for all the three terminals put goether is barely 2,000 TEUs.

This was possible by coordinating with other terminal operators (GTI and NSICT).

Another way is by tightening the time margin within which loading and unloading from trains must take place. Niti Aayog too has been monitoring loading and unloading times. Recently Niti Aayog gave JNPT a loading time margin of just four hours.

To ensure that this target is met, JNPT is in the process of putting in place a firm accountability system. “There will be a dashboard on which each measure is given,” says Bansal. This will add to the supervision capabilities of all the operators. Standard Operating Systems are also being put into place because railway loading and unloading involve a lot many more players and processes than containers coming by trucks do.

JNPT expects the software for the dashboard to be ready by October end. That should bring in more transparency and accountability, which in turn should mean more efficient operations.

“Our vision for JNPT is to give a choice to the trade, to come to this port on merit,” says Bansal.

JNPT plans coming up with a concept it calls “Common Transport Operator” This will allow for greater optimization in the way cargo and traffic is handled at the port.

It is also coming up with other measures to ensure that it can fully harness the business opportunities that will come up very soon once the dedicated freight corridor or DFC (linking Rewari in Haryana to JNPT in Mumbai) becomes operational.

First, it is in the process of setting up a common railyard, instead of having discrete yards for each terminal operator. This rail yard will be operated by the common transport operator and the goods taken from or shift to different terminals and container freight stations.

Other changes are being looked at because the trains operating on this corridor will be double length with double stacking. This will mean that each train will carry a load of four trains. Therefore, existing systems and processes will require a substantial overhaul.

One way is by encouraging transporting containers from the rail to container freight stations by rail instead of road. JNPT has begun giving discounts to transporters who opt for this idea.

Eventually this will mean reduced cost and reduced time lines for customers.

When it comes to ports, Bansal puts down customer disaffection to one critical issue – will his goods reach the port on time to catch the ship, or will he receive his goods at the earliest. Linked to this anxiety is the issue of cost as well.

At the heart of this is the factor of congestion which JNPT has begun to tackle on a war footing.

Congestion causes delays. It provides an easy readymade excuse for inefficiency and it pushes up the cost.

If dealing with congestion was one issue, the need to reduce gating time is another. “Earlier the window for aggregating cargo was six days. Today – in JNPCT itself – we have reduced it to four days,” says Bansal. The four days include loading time on the vessel as well as the berthing time of 36 hours for a vessel at JNPCT and 8 hours for batching. The saving of two days by squeezing these time slots actually helps customers immensely.

To do this JNPT has embarked on two initiatives – Direct Port Entry and Direct Port Delivery. Thus a customer, who is certified with the customs authorities can ask for direct port entry right at the point of booking the cargo and also for direct port delivery. A nine-day cycle could then be reduced to as little as two days. Such systems would also contribute to transparency in operations. With transparency, there is bound to be customer empowerment, reduced costs and more efficient operations.

JNPT is in the midst of a mind-boggling expansion programme. It is expanding its operations at the present port site by addition a fourth Phase I and then Phase II. Phase I is expected to become operational by December 2017.

JNPT is also planning to set up a parallel port at Dahanu by reclaiming land and going deep into the sea where it can enjoy a draught of over 18 metres.

The detailed project report (DPR) for the Dahanu port will be ready by March 2017. It is then the activity for port construction will begin. First will come the breakwater wall, along with reclamation and dredging. “Once it reaches a critical stage the PPP (public private partnership) operations start,” explains Bansal.

Today JNPT has improved its performance even at its own terminal. It has outmatched NSICT managed by DP World which used to be considered as one of the best port operators in the world. Bansal says that this has been possible by being more customer friendly, improving processes and giving customers a choice.

The real challenge before JNPT will begin only when capacities get enhanced, when it will have to seek out new customer. Bansal believes that the initiatives taken by the government of Maharashtra will themselves translate into huge business coming to JNPT from this state.

Updated Date:

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