FPJ Exclusive: 'JNPA's Aim Is to Reduce Logistics Cost, Improve Turnaround Time': Unmesh Sharad Wagh Shares Insights

FPJ Exclusive: 'JNPA's Aim Is to Reduce Logistics Cost, Improve Turnaround Time': Unmesh Sharad Wagh Shares Insights

Wagh sheds light on his strategic vision for JNPA and delves into pressing concerns shaping the port industry, offering a glimpse into the future of trade and transportation in the region.

Bhalchandra ChorghadeUpdated: Tuesday, April 16, 2024, 01:13 PM IST
JNPA Chairman, Unmesh Sharad Wagh |

The Chairman of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA), Unmesh Sharad Wagh, engages in a dynamic dialogue with the Free Press Journal staff, unveiling his visionary outlook and addressing pivotal issues. As a key figure in one of India's premier ports, Wagh's insights are invaluable in understanding the maritime landscape and its broader implications. In this exclusive conversation, he sheds light on his strategic vision for JNPA and delves into pressing concerns shaping the port industry, offering a glimpse into the future of trade and transportation in the region.


Importance of having new port at Vadhavan

Braden, Dustin

When we see the map of India, there was a port on the west called Karachi. It was before 1947. Then we have Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and then Chatgaon. Karachi and Chatgaon were gone after independence. Immediately, we started Kandla and then Vishakhapatnam. So, to compensate that, our policy makers, considering the importance, developed ports at regular intervals.

That's the reason why our capacity is always much more than what is required. However, the one important factor about Indian Ports is the geography. The capacity of Tuticorin port is of no use to industry in Vapi. Even if we have enough capacity, but that is not good enough for our next five years if we don't add one new port north of Mumbai and south of Daman. The portion left with north of Vasai to south of Vapi is only Palghar and Dahanu since it is the only place where the required draft is available.

Almost 75% of our export-import of industrialized good is through three ports –JNPA, Mundra and Pipavav and the capacity is increasing at a rate of 7.5 to 8% every year. And with our expansion also, JNPA and Mundra, both of them will be full in 2029. So, it is critical for us to build one port immediately. We should have made it yesterday, but if not yesterday then immediately. We will start construction of Vadhavan port in June because all the clearances have been taken and only the cabinet clearance is pending due to elections.

The new port will be three times of JNPA and it will be 5th or 6th largest port in the world. Currently, we are 25th or 26th number and among top 10 ports in the world, 7 are Chinese. Others are Singapore, Busan and Jebel Ali. So, we are nowhere and we plan to develop our country like China. It will be a majorly container port and a clean port since we will not be transporting coal, iron ore from there.

Number of terminals and business allocation

There will be 9 container terminals each having 3 berths. So, 27 container berths. Then we will have 4 multipurpose terminals where there will be break berth means you can have steel coil and other things. We will also have cement and other cargo, one berth for RoRo, one berth for Coast Guard.

There will also be 4 liquid terminals which will not have LNG, LPG or crude since we have declared this while applying for the environment clearance. Nowhere in India 7,200 km of coastlines is available and this is the only spot where 20 km draft is available. Also, it is far from Sahyadri mountain ranges so the evacuation will be very fast.

Similarly, the areas such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, NCR, Madhya Pradesh, Western UP, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Baddi and others that will drive industrial growth of India for next 25 years, they will have a gateway port which is not possible anywhere else but in Vadhavan.

Status of Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC)

It is very difficult to say when DFC will come to JNPA. The DFC and other authorities are saying that it will come by December 2025. The delay is affecting JNPA a little because it has already reached Mundra and is not very far from JNPA.

We have competition is NCR cargo and will lose some cargo to them, but it’s ok. If it is cheaper for exporter or importer to go to Mundra, they will go and I don't think there should be any complaint. I have already said that an industry located in NCR should go to the nearest and save logistics expenses. And for country, logistics cost should be minimum since for a person, whether for import or export, he should have his cargo delivered to him or delivered from him within time for minimum cost.

We are already having enough traffic and if DFC comes early, it should be better and beneficial to us.

About villagers’ protest, displacement

There have been very long-standing protests at Vadhavan. The reason we cannot understand since there isn’t any impact on the local community. There are five important questions raised by the people.

These include flooding, environmental concerns, cutting of mangroves, land acquisition and the Shankodar temple spot which is open once in a year on Akshaya Tritiya due to low tide. What we did in last four years is we changed the alignment completely and shifted to offshore. So, Shankodar temple is protected fully and there is no flooding because everything is shifted towards sea. It is so far from the coast that people are not able to see the port.

Then we did all the studies, because it is too inside, there is no change in water level, no flooding, no land acquisition, because it is shifted inside and we are creating land inside.

No plan for any refinery too. We didn't submit it to environment clearance, so no clearance for that. Everything is ruled out. Only one question remains is about the loss of livelihood, fishing. We observed that they do fishing in lakhs of square km and only 30 square km of area is out of bound for them.

They have to shift from that place and do somewhere else. In remaining area, they can do fishing. We have mapped 5,333 families which are partially, fully or temporarily affected and offering them compensation as per the policy of the government of Maharashtra.

Opposition from environmentalists

There are only 2-3 environmentalists who are opposing the port. Let me tell you, we did more than 27 studies and almost every environmental body cleared the port. First, it was Dahanu Taluka Environmental Protection Authority (DTEPA), headed by ex-judge of Bombay High Court which passed it after we fulfilled their requirements. He was assisted by 20 experts who asked us to do 27 studies which we did.

Then the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) also cleared the project without any objection. They even said that dolphins are there, so we got Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) from Kolkata which carried out a study. They said dolphins are sighted somewhere from where you are getting the sand, but dolphins will go out of that area for time being. And once your work is done, they come back.

Status of JNPA Special Economic Zone (SEZ)

Growth of Japan and Southeast Asia and China are all development stories post World War. In all the stories the common factor is the ports and factories near ports. The distance should be minimum so that the logistics cost should be minimum. In India, this is a problem because the average distance is 350 km while in other countries it is 70 km. In the Sagarmala Progmarre one pillar is that you should generate some area where factories can be set up near to the port to facilitate cargo generation.

Accordingly, we developed SEZ in last four years. It is a state-of-the-art SEZ having plug-and-play facility. As of now, we have sold almost 100 Ha and 65 Ha of land is still there. We are asking big companies who can import goods, pack, repack and again export goods, to come and set a base at JNPA SEZ. Such companies coming here would be generating huge employment to the men and women around.

We have already spent Rs 500 crore for developing facilities at SEZ and we earned more than Rs 2000 crore. You will see what turnaround things we have done there. The ease of doing business, the roads, the system improvement, digitalization, the new initiatives like Centralized Parking Plaza (CPP) and many new things. We recently conceptualised an agro-processing zone and we will go for tender within two months.

Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives

If you come to JNPA, you will realize what we are doing there and you will see it to believe it. We have rejuvenated lot of lakes which had dried. We have developed five beautiful places which are open to public where they can walk, cycle or just spend some quality time amidst the serene nature. We created these lakes and made them public places.

We are also building a modern school building which will be affiliated to the CBSE board. It will not only facilitate the children from surrounding villages, but will also help our officials belonging to different parts of the country and transferred here, to get admission into this school. It is our endeavour to give something back to the society and have spent almost Rs 18 Crore towards CSR initiatives.

We have also developed a skill centre in association with Antwerp. At Vadhavan also, we have identified 27 skilling centres wherein training will be imparted to the people so that they can be given employment in the port.

JNPA’s objective achieved fully

JNPA was formed to decongest Mumbai port and the objective has been fully achieved almost 20 years back. Mumbai Port Authority (MbPA) is hardly doing any port activity now and has entered into cruise, real estate etc. We cannot call MbPA a port now and it is also because it doesn’t have space to expand as it is situated right in the middle of the city.

Creating big channel at JNPA

As far as deepening the channel is concerned, we have done the best possible. It happened twice, in 2004 and 2018. It has now achieved the maximum depth of 14.5 meters and going beyond that is economically not possible, so the need of another port at Vadhavan has arrived. JNPA has reached the saturation and water front is not available. In April, 2025, we will achieve 10.5 MTEU capacity which will be complete since we don’t have the scope for further expansion.

Dry Port

The concept of dry port is nothing but to provide an extended port facility at the hinterland. The export and import business done at dry port is same what happens at the port. Dy port has customs, rail connectivity and other facilities available at the port. We had identified four spots in Sangli, Wardha, Jalna and Nashik.

Of these, Sangli has been ruled out while the dry ports at Wardha and Jalna have already started functioning. There are some land issues at Nashik since the land there belonged to some sugar factory which JNPA has purchased so the acquisition is over. We will start the dry port at Nashik soon.

Scanning the containers

It is not practically possible to scan each and every scanner and nowhere in the world it is done. Some containers were purchased only once by IPA and we had clear instructions to facilitate them by purchasing scanners. JNPA has enough scanners which are manned by Customs authorities. However, some incidents such as drug smuggling happen since Customs don’t have enough manpower.

It is not that the machine is not running. There are x-rays still incidents are reported due to lack of manpower. Also, Customs are not repairing the scanners and JNPA is doing it out of mandate. Still 80% goods go unchecked and Customs have to just let go cargo of some companies as per government mandate. Almost 16,000 containers are exported or imported daily and it’s not easy to smuggle narcotics in containers since the chain is so big that one of them will spill the beans.

Use of AI and modern technology

Using artificial intelligence and other modern technologies is very important and we are adapting to digital twin and other technologies. AI can be used for reduction in cost and manning traffic. Reduction in cost means reducing the fuel and thereby practicing sustainability. AI can also be helped to give appointment and is most beneficial for Customs. We are doing a bit towards incorporating these modern technologies in our day-to-day functioning.

Tesla plan

Any development like this welcome. JNPA SEZ doesn’t have land they will have to go to Pune or Gujarat where there is thrust of automobile industry. For both the locations, the nearest gateway port in JNPA and we will extend all help if they need.

Future plans

It’s important to consolidate JNPA’s position, retain and attract cargo besides reduce the cost. To have that ecosystem, we have planned agro processing zone, and also have SEZ for enough cargo. We also need to bring our turnaround time below 18 hours and our priority is to reduce logistics cost. We are confident of reducing it by at least 10-15% next year. Also, JNPA should be among top ports in the world.


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