Cargo traffic through India's West-coast ports, which have traditionally handled the bulk of the country's trade, is estimated to drop to 66% in 3-4 years from 77% in FY 2010, Chairman of Visakhapatnam Port Trust Ajeya Kallam has said.
On the other hand, the share of East-coast ports would rise by as much as 11% in the same period, to 34%, Kallam said at the 2-day 'East Coast Maritime Business Summit', organised by Maritime Gateway, over the weekend.
To take advantage of this, Visakhapatnam Port is planning to invest Rs. 13,000 crore on expansion, he said, adding that ports of the East coast would benefit from India's rising trade with South East Asian countries, and China.
Visakhapatnam Port handled 67.41 million tonnes of cargo in 2011-12, against 68.04 million tonnes the previous year.
But the cargo movement was hit to some extent by global slowdown, fall in iron ore export to China, and competition by ports in the neighbourhood, he said.
Chief Executive Officer of Krishnapatnam Port Anil Yendluri said it would be difficult for the government to build infrastructure for growing trade on its own.
"Government will have to consider joining hands with private players to build the infrastructure," he said.
Dhamra Port CEO Santosh K Mohapatra pointed out that East coast ports had the advantage of deep draft facility, but unlike the west coast ports in Gujarat, building a port would require huge upfront investment in east coast states, due to the geography.
Shipping Corporation of India CMD Sabyasachi Hajara said globally the size of ships was increasing. "With 12,000-14,000 TEU vessels becoming common, east coast ports will be able to cater to them as they have natural deep draft," he said.
There was also a great scope for inland waterways considering that all major rivers are located on east coast, Hajara said.
Managing Director APL India Anil Radhakrishnan said container volumes were currently lopsided, favouring the west coast. "With east coast adding new ports, capacity is being created....Except Chennai, cargo consolidation is required on other east coast ports. Connectivity to South East Asian countries including China will be an advantage for ports in this region."
Chairman, Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation and former shipping secretary K Mohandas said the government had a concrete plan to increase port capacity three times by 2020.
"On the east coast, two major ports are being planned. But we need to look at a different strategy rather than just increasing the number of ports. We should build one or two large ports and smaller ports by adopting a hub and spoke model rather than building a large number of medium size ports," he said.