The statistics are impressive. Indian ports are expected to handle one billion tonne of cargo in 2011-12, two billion tonne by 2016-17 and 2.4 billion tonne by 2019-20. To meet this demand, the ports are likely to increase cargo handling capacity to 1,855 MT by 2012 from the present 758 MT, with an investment of about $20.61 billion. With 12 major ports and 187 minor ports, the 7,517- km-long Indian coastline plays a pivotal role in maritime transport and international trade. Traffic at the ports has been growing at a brisk pace and therefore, increasing cargo handling capacities of the ports is crucial to India. More importantly, advance knowledge and best practice in equipment and technology, plays such a crucial role in helping ports and terminals meet today’s demands for productivity, efficiency, safety and sustainability. EQUIPMENT INDIA takes a close look at the equipment and technology used in the ports sector, at the major players and their product lines.Says Capt BVJK Sharma, Joint Managing Director & CEO, JSW Infrastructure, “All indications are that there is a huge investment potential in the ports sector, which is expected to grow at above ten per cent CAGR over the next 10-15 years. Some studies, including ones by governmental authorities, indicate a requirement of Rs 1.5 lakh crore in the ports sector in the forthcoming decade. We intend to invest in berths and equipment, to increase our capacity to around 60 MMTPA. These investments would be not only in equipment for bulk handling but also for handling containers, RO-RO traffic, POL and petro products, LNG, and the like.”“As the Indian economy keeps growing at a steady pace and is fast becoming more relevant to global trade, capacities at Indian ports are bound to increase. The government of India has already formulated the maritime agenda for 2010-20. There is going to be huge surge in demand for material handling equipment at Indian ports – for both bulk and container handling. Also, containerisation as a medium of trade will grow steadily to the levels of developed countries. Therefore, we foresee a large potential for container handling equipment supplies,” points out Ravin Wadhawan, General Manager – Port Equipment and Strategy Planning, Terex India.Speaking about the trends, Wadhawan further adds, “Increase in vessel sizes, enhanced security and safety at ports, growing environmental concerns and automation will all be key drivers for port equipment. We are already experiencing a positive shift towards energy conservation devices and electric RTGs, etc. We are also seeing a welcome change in public-private partnerships (PPPs).”“Maritime transport is critical for the social and economic development of a country and the ports sector is one of the main user segments of material handling equipment. The range of material handling equipment varies depending on the cargo, either bulk or containers. The wide range of equipment used is different type of cranes, forklifts, shovels, gantries, reach stackers, etc. The majority of ports in India are being utilised close to its maximum potential which has created the need for substantial investment by the government in the ports sector and also the volume of cargo being handled requires modernisation of the ports. Due to the huge investment being projected in the ports segment, there is immense potential for growth of material handling equipment in this segment,” says Pinaki Niyogy, Associate Vice President & Head – Manufacturing & Operations, Material Handling Solutions, TIL. He further adds that growth in traffic, coupled with capacity constraints at the major ports, will continue to drive demand for the expansion of existing terminals / berths, as well as the creation of new infrastructure facilities. Also the emerging trends in the ports sector in increasing private participation, setting up of port-based SEZs, specialist terminal based ports, increasing scope for private ports, all prophesy a healthy outlook for port equipment space. Another emerging trend is port OEM services; currently, limited players provide port OEM services, ensuring an opportunity for domestic and overseas players.TIL has been in the ports segment for a long time and their current offerings include a range of equipment for material handling at ports like ship-to-shore cranes, level luffing cranes, rubber tyre gantries, reach stackers, empty container handlers, laden container handlers and mobile cranes, in collaboration with various global leaders like Manitowoc, Mitsui, Hyster, etc. Pinaki says that the growing economy has to substantially invest in infrastructure, and ports and ICDs are critical for sustained growth and as we move forward to a liberalised economy, these facilities would be critical. The ship-to-shore cranes (STS) or portainers are critical for container unloading from the ship and India definitely offers a great opportunity in view of the new projects and port expansion that is taking place.Speaking about the major challenges, Pinaki had this to say. “Although the Indian ports sector has huge potential for development, certain issues continue to retard its growth. Low efficiency, capacity constraints and lack of specialised berths are some of them. Awards and completion of PPP projects have also fallen behind schedule most of the time. As the related industry grows, the demand for material handling equipment grows. Also owing to the fact, the market has a global exposure; many players from outside India are active in our country. This throws a challenge to ensure global product quality. Also, competition from low- cost countries brings in tremendous price pressure which in turn, brings the challenge to remain competitive. This combined with inflow of used equipment from different parts of the globe without any timebound restriction, makes the situation more difficult to sustain. The challenge is to face all the above and still remain the leader in providing solutions to the industry.“As per reports, currently India has a containerisation level of just above 50 per cent while the average containerisation in developed economies is approximately 70 per cent. In order to reach higher containerisation levels, India needs to simplify its container logistics. Says Sharma, “CFSs traditionally have been created to de-congest the port terminals themselves. While this has led to the ability of ports to handle greater volumes, it has been accompanied by a substantial increase in logistics costs. ICDs, on the other hand, have developed into dry ports and offer value-added services to the exporters and importers. We believe that with the advent of modern technology (risk-based assessment systems, container scanning, etc), the need for CFSs will gradually plateau, as the requirement for physical examination of containers will come down. When connectivity by road and rail to the hinterland improves, the role of ICDs will be enhanced.”According to Sharma, almost all the equipment used in ports is imported, due to price and availability factors. “We believe that if Indian companies venture into manufacturing of port equipment while maintaining price, quality and availability, backed up with excellent after sales support, they can garner a large share of the pie in the Indian ports sector.” With investments lined up for port expansions and new port projects, many Indian companies have set focus on material handling and port solutions.