India is losing Rs. 1,600 crore annually to foreign ports as its ports are unable to handle larger ships, a top port official said Friday and urged the government to dredge all ports in the country to a minimum depth of 14 metres.
"Because of the inability of our ports to handle larger and huge ships, the country has to lose out Rs. 1,600 crore annually to foreign ports. As such, all the ports in the country must be dredged to a minimum depth of 14 metres while the hub ports must be dredged to 17 metres depth," said Luxman Radhakrishnan, chairman of Mumbai's Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT).
He also rued the central government's lack of funding for dredging projects.
"The sovereign authority has to fund capital dredging. Without its support, individual ports are not in position to carry out the process," said Radhakrishnan, adding that the JNPT would be spending Rs.1,570 crore this year on dredging operation.
The public private participation (PPP) model could be another way for dredging activities, he said.
He also emphasised on containerisation of cargo, saying the containers yield better handling with no or less damage and providing optimum storage capacity utilisation.
He suggested locating ports with greater depths and developing them. "Most of our ports suffer from high silting and cost of dredging is very high. We need to find new places where the area is suitable for a port."
He said the JNPT, which handled almost 50% of the container cargo in 2011-12, has achieved a compound annual growth rate of 12.06 percent during the period 1999-2012.
He also said the corporatisation of the JNPT was only held up due to an industrial dispute involving it and once the matter was resolved, the port would be corporatised in six months.
Having tasted success at the Ennore port in Chennai, the government has decided to corporatise major ports in India to make each a profitable venture.
Ennore Port, a Mini Ratna set up in 2001 as a public company, is the only corporate port at present in the country.
The corporatisation exercise will begin in a phased manner with the JNPT, which is likely to be followed by Kolkata, Paradip, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Tuticorin, Kochi, Mumbai, Mormugao, Kandla and New Mangalore.