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Major ports face fall in container traffic

The twelve major ports in the country handled 10.5 lakh twenty-equivalent-units(TEUs) during the first two months of the current fiscal, down by 12.3 per cent. In May alone, the ports cumulatively handled 5.38 lakh TEUs, a year-on-year dip of 10.5 per cent, but it has increased by a moderate 3.8 per cent compared to April. "One of the reasons for the dip is all ports had seen a huge surge in container traffic during the April to September period last year. While the overall cargo grew by 7.2 per cent at all major ports during that period, the container traffic had seen a growth of 10.16 per cent," said S K Mondal, director, planning, Kolkata Port Trust(KoPT). Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust(JNPT), that accounts for more than 60 per cent of the country's total container volumes, saw a 9.4 per cent year-on-year fall in volumes at 3.29 lakh TEUs in May 2009, while it was higher by a 4.4 per cent when compared with the previous month. The Chennai Port, which handles about 16 per cent of India's container volumes, witnessed a 16.6 per cent year-on-year drop at about 88,000 TEUs, while the volume levels stood flat sequentially. The most massive drop had been at Mumbai port, Mondal pointed out, handling only 10,000 TEUs this fiscal, down by 54 per cent compared to the same period a year ago. "The Kolkata Port Trust has,in contrast, done well. The Kolkata Dock System(KDS) container volumes were up by 11 per cent at 57,000 TEUs. Haldia Dock System(HDS), however, is down by over 32 per cent at 18,000 TEUs, resulting in an overall drop of two per cent in KoPT's net container traffic", he explained. While, high growth figures in the first half of last fiscal made the base higher when comparing with the current financial year, the second half of the year should show a positive uptrend precisely for the same reasons, felt Param Desai, an analyst with Angel Broking. " January and February 2009 were the worst months, and the current trend in traffic during April-May is expected to continue till June. Volumes should start to pick up in the third quarter of the current fiscal", he said. In the October to March period last fiscal container traffic at major ports saw a decline of 5.5 per cent. "JNPT, the largest container traffic handler, saw a 14 per cent drop in volumes as against a 9.9 per cent growth in the first half of FY09. Mumbai, that had experienced a 31 per cent rise in container traffic during April to September 2008, registered a 54.6 per cent dip in the second half", Mondal explained. Sectors like, jems and jewellery, chemicals, engineering goods, leather goods, tyres, chemicals, that drive the export trade are likely to remain lacklustre during this year. "There would be a higher mismatch between import-export trade during this fiscal. Tea and jute exports are down so far this year. But, imports are slowly picking up", Mondal pointed out. Logistics players feel that post budget the cargo traffic conditions will improve.

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