At the Metalogic PMS Webinar on ‘Indian Ports for Bulk Raw Material & Steel’ organised on 28th October 2021, Mr Rajiv Agarwal was one of the key panellists touching upon various topics that impact the ports sector. The webinar was organised with an aim to bring together experts from within the industry to discuss, address, learn and engage in constructive dialogue for the advancement of the Indian Ports Sector.
Mr Agarwal was accompanied by reputed fellow panelists, Mr Santosh K. Mohapatra, IAS (Retd.), Advisor & Consultant, Former Chairman/Director Paradip/Dhamra/Vizhimjam Ports, Mr Vinit Kumar, Chairman, Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port, Mr Arun Maheshwari, Jt. MD & CEO, JSW Infrastructure, and Mr Dhruv Kotak, Managing Director, J. M. Baxi Group.
The webinar sparked interesting conversations with fellow panelists focusing on the key trends and developments in the ports sector supporting the Indian iron and steel industry, issues relating to Indian ports, impact of Covid on the sector, consolidation of the Indian ports sector, hub & spoke model for last mile connectivity and investments by the steel and power industry in Ports sector.
Mr Agarwal shared his thoughts on the need for developing deep draft ports for handling bigger sized ships. He cited how Essar has been a pioneer in the ports industry for users in the steel, power and refinery industries. He further talked about how logistics and inland connectivity can bring about a big competitive edge to the industry.
With the ports industry expected to double in the next 4-5 years, he stressed upon the huge requirement of handling large quantities of cargo. He also pointed out ‘last mile connectivity’ as being one of the key issues that needs to be addressed.
He also emphasized the importance of Hub & Spoke Model, which is essential for overall reduction of logistics cost of industry and hinterland, enabling EXIM competitiveness.
On the impact of Covid-19 Mr Agarwal emphasized on the undisrupted operations at Essar Ports during the pandemic. He further added, that due to geopolitical reasons and Covid challenges, disruptions have taken place in the supply chains all around the world causing slower turnaround times, higher freight rates, increased commodity and coal prices, thereby impacting the world economy. However, the demand in the country is now gaining momentum and will see an increase, if not further hit by the third wave.
He also talked about consolidation taking place in the private sector and how opportunities are burgeoning in the sector through PPP projects. He underlined and appreciated the government efforts of national monetisation pipeline. He also mentioned how Major Ports are evolving into landlord port model by bringing new concessions through the public-private partnership route – private sector as operators, which is a good mix in the long run. Government can then focus on other core areas and bring efficiency in operations and transparency.
Additionally, Mr Agarwal pointed out the need to improve the PPP model to create excitement and participation in the Major Ports. There should be flexibility in agreements, and charging tariffs should be left to the import operator, so that investments can get due returns.