Digitization, Health and Safety is core to our operations

Digitization and deployment of cutting-technologies is not a choice any longer but has become imperative across sectors and industries, says RAJIV AGARWAL, Managing Director, Essar Ports in an interview with EPC World magazine

Excerpts from EPC World’s interview with Mr Rajiv Agarwal, Managing Director, Essar Ports Ltd.

The ongoing Pandemic has badly battered the economy. Does infrastructure hold the key to revive the Indian economy? Your views

Yes definitely. Infrastructure is the backbone of any economy and delivers a multiplier impact with cascading positive impacts on different elements. Good infrastructure not only enables the engines of economy work in full swing but also ensures EXIM competitiveness of the nation. Building future-ready, resilient and sustainable infrastructure could help restart capital goods production, cost effective logistics, generate massive employment and revive private sector confidence. India plans to spend more than $1.4 trillion on infrastructure for projects identified under the National Infrastructure Pipeline spanning across transport, logistics, energy, water & sanitation, social & commercial, infra and communication. These projects will help the country realize its vision of becoming a $5 trillion economy and this will enable the country to continue on an escalated growth trajectory until 2030.

How are you adapting to the ‘New Normal’?

ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) led by Essar’s values and philosophy of putting people before profit defines the very core of Essar Ports. It drives us how we conduct ourselves as the “New Normal”. Digitization, Health and Safety is core to our operations. We stand committed to our people and our customers. Through our efforts in the “New Normal” we ensure sustainability in our day to day operations. Despite the challenges our facilities have remained operational ensuring our customer supply chains are up and running. Our operations has been in compliance with Government guidelines. We are ensuring Minimum Human Intervention through our mechanized facilities, body screening & social distancing, briefing the stakeholders on hygiene protocols and spreading Covid-19 awareness, regular health check-ups and immunity boosting initiatives. We are working in close coordination with local authority and Essar Foundation to provide the relief to local community and stakeholders and undertaking quarantine of effected workforce with all safety standards.

In this challenging Pandemic environment how are you providing succor to alleviate the sufferings of Covid-19 affected through your CSR activities?

During the unprecedented crisis posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Essar Ports is living up to Essar’s ethos of ‘Creating Value’. Be it – partnering with local Government bodies or NGOs in boosting their initiatives, providing food and medical supplies, Essar Ports along with Essar Foundation is doing everything to help communities in combating this crisis. Our CSR focus is on key pillars of Health, Infrastructure and Education. Some of the initiatives undertaken recently include establishing an exclusive 100-bed Covid care centre with oxygen support at Devbhumi Dwarka district (Gujarat); donating oxygen generators and oxygen concentrators to hospitals and administration; distribution of hygiene kits consisting of masks, hand sanitizers and soaps; dstributing meals to the needy; undertaking vaccination drives not only for employees and their families but also for our front line workers who have ensured the engines of economy are up and running despite the shutdown; support to staff to enable them undertake work in view of social stigma and lockdowns; briefing the stakeholders on hygiene protocols and spreading Covid-19 awareness is the order of day.

What are your views on the need to adapt and remold the infra activities as per the New Normal to spur the economy?

The Covid-19 pandemic has surely changed our traditional way of working. In the past one year we have imbibed new ways of doing business to adapt to the new normal. Adoption of technology in the ports sector will act like a catalyst and will be implemented at every level of the business such as mechanization, digital custom clearance, use of artificial intelligence at terminals, operations & maintenance, optimization through models, safety & security, etc. Companies will now have to rethink their business strategy and reinvent themselves with digital strategies at core to gain sustainable edge.

How can the government assist the port sector in this Pandemic time?

Efforts by Government, especially those of Ministry of Shipping and Gujarat Maritime Board, in boosting the sector and economy are highly commendable. The efforts are visible with plethora of new initiatives. Few of the notable ones are Major Ports Bill 2020 will enable flexibility, self-governance and swiftness in decision making; Investible Projects – 400 worth USD 31 Billion have been identified in Maritime Sector; Maritime Vision 2030 – will pave way for global maritime leadership; National Infrastructure Pipeline will enable the infrastructure support required for “Atmanirbhar” Bharat; Undertaking PPP Projects on existing assets will unlock value and boost efficiency. These initiatives will not only enhance efficiency of the port sector but also improve the country’s competitiveness. The initiatives are likely to catalyze rapid transformation of India in becoming “A Global Manufacturing Hub”. The need of the hour is to ensure effective implementation of same.

The Pandemic has further expedited technologic advancement such as minimum human intervention by integrating IoT, AI. Towards this, what are your thoughts on the same?

Digitization and deployment of cutting- technologies is not a choice any longer but has become imperative across sectors and industries. The ports are no exceptions. In fact, adoption of facilitating technologies has become even more rapid after the onset of Pandemic. Essar Ports, with its commitment of continuous improvements, has been in an early adopter of digital technologies including IoT & data analytics. Essar Ports believes that the infusion on digitization and advancement of technology, enables better customer service, reduces operation costs, improves efficiencies and ensures environmentally conscious/ecofriendly business operations. However, we also believe that application of technologies will need deep functional and technical expertise at all levels. The fact that legacy systems, which were implemented with heavy investment, mandates designing of overall technology backbone which will seamlessly incorporate and enable interplay of new and old technologies. The evolution is not easy and any lack of managerial and strategic focus can result in disparate systems, heavy costs and operational complexities.

How do you see the economy, opportunities and challenges in this pandemic situation and please give us a brief idea about the strategies outlined to tap in the future potentials?

Despite the Pandemic and Challenges there is a huge potential of opportunities waiting to be tapped. Especially with Indian steps forward in becoming “Atmanirbhar” and a USD 5 trillion economy. Since inception we have ensured our facilities are state-ofthe- art and have invested heavily in mechanization which can offer clean environment and round the clock services to our customers. Despite the pandemic our facilities have been fully operational and we have seen interest of trade strengthening in our facilities. In fact our Vizag Terminal – India’s largest ore handling complex has posted a growth of 7% in FY 21 despite the industry showing downward trend in FY 21. The demand of our terminals is strong and we believe our terminals are well placed to offer sustainable advantage to our customers and trade. Delivering competitive edge to customers through service will hold the key going forward.

Source: EPC World ( June 2021 )