Praveen Waychal sheds light on the container logistics and re-handling market in India and elaborates on Kalmar's technology and solutions for this domain.
Container logistics in India has transformed over the last decade in many ways. The constant change is challenging the established methods of handling and transportation of containers. More and more stringent rules for safety and weighing of containers are keeping all manufacturers of container handling equipment in a constant innovation mode.
Containerisation in India
Indian container trade has seen a growth of 6.1 per cent in FY2016 with gross container volume at all ports at 12.5 million TEUs. With ambitious support from government budget allocations, additional capacities have been added on both east and west coasts. This will surely help in de-congesting existing ports.
However, with no major change in consumption of goods and commodities globally and relatively lower growth in industrial sectors in India, the growth is expected to remain flat. This disparity between overcapacity and limited demand has affected freight rates and the viability of many container freight stations (CFSs) due to sub-optimal handling volumes.
As the business remains at a similar level of performance, it is expected that many CFSs would look for consolidation and small/unviable CFSs would be out for sale. This will help in two ways: Only players who can sustain such uncertainty would remain in business; and secondly, this will limit the unethical price cuts to attract business, leading to better pricing and margins for CFS operators.
One more factor for low volume of container traffic in India despite huge population supporting consumption is that in the country, the level of containerisation in cargo handling is very low. Only 22 per cent of Indian cargo is containerised, whereas this percentage for China is 65 per cent and for Europe and America it is over 80 per cent. Such a huge gap in level of containerisation leads to scope of improvement as more and more commodities too are imported in containers.
Since 2014, the share of container movements from ports to inland container depots (ICDs) by trains has been coming down, creating a situation of congestion at ports and underutilisation of ICDs. While on one side, connectivity issues are being addressed at the policy level by the Sagarmala project, over 100 inland waterways, coastal shipping etc., it is the movement of containers over land that is going to play a crucial role in efficiency, as only 6 per cent of cargo is moved by waterways.
The dedicated rail freight corridor along with expansion of roads and addition of new roads has also been planned to improve delivery speed. In India, a container goes through different type of transport mechanisms to reach the customer, thus increasing the number of handling points of containers in the supply chain process. Since over 70 per cent of containers are handled in the west coast, the traffic density is high in this region, leading to congestion and delays. Manufacturing is one of the largest segments of export-import users and due to the industrial development policy, most of the manufacturing happens at places far away from ports, thus compelling use of roads for movement of goods.
On an average, an exim container has to travel anywhere between 700-1,000 km to reach a port. If we look at the situation to China, the travel distance is 150-300 km only. This surely is a main factor in efficiency bottlenecks.
With the introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST), Indian exports are expected to become more competitive, leading to more exim trade. Moreover, the 'Make in India' programme is expected to give the much-needed impetus to the sluggish industrial sector, especially engineering goods. GST is also expected to help domestic consumption due to rationalisation of prices of goods in India.
Container handling in India is still largely dependent upon the manual mode, rather than an advanced technology-based handling mode. A few CFSs have installed RFID systems, but integration of handling data to the main server is still on the wish-list. Many customers experience the inconvenience at CFSs and ports handling due to less automation and poor data analytics of handling equipment.
In India, various regulations demand the multiple handling of containers, leading to increase in costs and delays in delivery. Typically in Europe/America or even in the APAC region, containers are primarily handled within ports only. In India, due to the size of ports, level of automation at ports and requirements of exim processes, we need to move the containers multiple times. This brings into picture the re-handling equipment for containers.
Solutions from Kalmar
Kalmar is the leading automation and container handling solution supplier in our industry. Every fourth container in the world is moved by a Kalmar solution. Our belief is 'Making Your Every Move Count' by reducing the process time and improving the efficiency and costs of re-handling. Our vision is to be the preferred business partner of our customers throughout the lifetime of their operations. Kalmar offers multiple handling solutions for re-handling of containers. Following is the brief of the multiple products that we can offer.
Rubber-Tyre Gantry Cranes (RTGC): RTG is the most common yard handling system in seaports globally, representing approximately 50 per cent of the total handling volume. RTGs are typically used especially in large terminals, where high storage capacity per hectare is essential. RTGs are also commonly used in countries with low labour costs due to optimal cost structure. The situation can be different in high labour cost countries, where other handling systems such as straddle carriers often provide the optimal cost structure. RTGC blocks are normally arranged parallel to the quay, as this normally leads to minimum driving distances for terminal tractors.
Normally, terminals have more blocks than RTG cranes, so RTGs must be switched between blocks on operation. An RTG typically handles containers by hoist and trolley motions only (it's a lifting machine), while gantry travelling is usually done without load. Gantry travelling can be done with load too up to some extent, but then the operating speed and productivity are low.
Reach stackers: These machines are found in every CFS/ICD and they are the backbone of every facility doing secondary handling of containers. We are glad to specifically mention that in India, the Kalmar name has become so generic to the product that any reach stacker used in India is called Kalmar and we are proud of this position of top brand recall from our customers. These machines are used for handling loaded and empty containers and have gained popularity in most markets globally due to their flexibility, higher stacking and storage capacity.
Using reach stackers, containers can be stacked deep due to second and third row access. These machines have good resale value and are easy to transport between terminals compared to any other yard machinery like straddle carriers and shuttle carriers. Kalmar offers multiple options in reach stackers for handling at ports, yards, intermodal terminals, barges, etc.
Terminal tractors: In terminal operations, terminal tractors are commonly used for moving containers on trailers between the ship-to-shore cranes and container stacking area. These tractors have capacity to use Multi-Trailer System (MTS) with two-five trailers in combination. These tractors are typically used with high torque and low speed due to speed limits in most terminals. Due to this, Kalmar tractors can be used in safe handling with multiple trailers for increasing the efficiency in handling.
Empty container handlers: In exim cargo, empty containers are generated during the import and once the cargo is delivered to customers. They are generally handled in separate areas and sometimes dedicated areas are allocated to store empty containers, thus releasing the valuable storage space for keeping loaded containers in terminals. Handling empty containers required specialised equipment designed with low hoist capacity, but with excellent stability and visibility while stacking high. This not only improves the productivity and minimises operating costs, but also allows high density block stacking up to 8+1 high. Double handling of empty containers is possible with different attachments for such specialised handling.
Kalmar also offers empty container handler reach stackers, thus adding the flexibility of handling containers in the second and third rows. This is a very popular way of handling due to safety, and is efficient, as it reduces the unnecessary moves to reach a specific container.
Kalmar India is a pioneer in offering the operations and maintenance contracts in this industry and we are proud to have years of experience in handling customer operations at many sites. These types of Kalmar care contracts add value to customer operations by bringing in efficiency and economy.