Cargo surge at major Indian ports despite global supply chain challenges

In the first two months of the 2024-25 fiscal year, cargo handled at India’s major ports surged by 4.03 percent year-on-year (Y-o-Y), reaching 139.3 million tonnes (MT), according to provisional and advance estimates from the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways. The month of May saw a particularly strong performance, with a 6 percent increase in cargo handling to 72 MT, driven by a 7.3 percent rise in overseas cargo, despite ongoing global supply chain constraints.

Experts suggest that the congestion at several Asian ports has led to a spillover effect, with transshipment cargo being redirected to Indian ports. However, it remains uncertain to what extent major ports have benefited from this shift.

In comparison, cargo volumes grew by only 2 percent in April and 4.4 percent throughout the 2023-24 fiscal year. Major ports, managed by the central government, include entities such as the Deendayal Port Authority (DPA) in Gujarat, which has shown significant growth following a challenging year.

In May, crude oil and petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) products constituted 20 percent of the total cargo volumes, registering nearly 7 percent growth. The movement of foodgrains, though from a smaller base, skyrocketed by nearly 270 percent to 431,000 MT.

The DPA, in particular, demonstrated remarkable recovery, with overseas cargo volumes rising by 23 percent to 11.8 MT in May, handling 18 percent of the total major port volumes. To counter competition from private ports like Mundra and Pipavav, the DPA launched the Strategic Action to Aid Growth and Rewards scheme, offering incentives such as reduced wharfage and berth hire charges, and prioritization of vessels.

While container cargo saw negligible growth in tonnage across India’s 12 major ports in May, the number of twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) increased by 5 percent, indicating a shift towards higher container traffic.