Bulk cargo such as coal, iron ore, cement, crude and petroleum products form a major part of India’s EXIM trade commodities. The composition of cargo handled by Indian ports is approximately 37.4 % liquid cargo, 22% coal, 21% containers, 7% iron ore, 2.5% fertilisers and 10% other minor bulk products. As of April 2020, bulk cargo takes the largest share in the cargo handled at Indian ports, contributing ~70 % of the total volume.
Inland Water Transport (IWT) is a fuel efficient, environment friendly and cost-effective mode of transport having potential to supplement the overburdened rail and congested roads. Most of the bulk cargo within India is transported via rail and road as opposed to coastal or inland shipping. For instance, more than 61% of the total thermal coal transported in India is via rail and more than 90% of the rail routes relevant to coal are running at over 100% utilization. India is expected to become the world’s largest coking coal importer by 2025 due to expansion in steel production in the country. This will create tremendous pressure on the already congested railways. Hence, there is a great opportunity to develop both coastal and inland shipping for transporting bulk cargo within the country.
Apart from easing the pressure off the rail system, shifting to coastal shipping has significant gains in terms of cost reductions. The cost of transporting bulk cargo via coastal shipping is INR 0.2 per tonne km as compared to INR 1.2 to 1.4 per tonne km for rail. A modal-mix shift towards coastal shipping will lower operational costs. For instance, the movement between RINL Vizag (coastal Andhra Pradesh) and the auto cluster in Pune (Maharashtra) costs INR ~1,900 per tonne via rail, while the same movement via coastal shipping with rail or road for the last-mile could be INR ~1,400 per tonne, which would save costs between 25 to 30%.
Other than coal and iron ore, liquid cargo is the primary and most valuable bulk product that is moved through international shipping.
The source of the majority of liquid cargo in India is imports. This necessitates the availability of ports with infrastructure essential to handle liquid bulk cargo. Some of the major ports handling liquid bulk cargo are:
The Sagarmala project has undertaken several new initiatives for liquid bulk cargo infrastructure development. Some of these include:
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