The cargo traffic at India’s major ports has declined considerably March onwards, adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government said on Thursday. COVID-19 impact at major ports started from March 2020, Shipping Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said in reply to a question in the Lok Sabha.
“There was a considerable decline in the total traffic, containers traffic and other than containers traffic in March, April, May, June, July and August, 2020 as compared to the corresponding months in 2019," the minister said. However, recovery has started since June 20, he said.
The minister said Shipping Ministry issued necessary directions from time to time to all ports to put in place a screening, detection and quarantine system for disembarking seafarers or cruise passengers. Apart from this, the steps taken include obtaining self-declaration from arriving crews/passengers, installing thermal scanners and procuring Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), N-95 masks, among others, besides creating awareness among the travellers at ports.
“Further, major ports under the administrative control of Ministry of Shipping have taken several steps like formation of SoP (standard operating procedure) for disease surveillance/vessel and crew/passenger management, thermal scanning while moving outside port prohibited area, isolation wards at port hospitals," he said. Other steps include non-charging of demurrage and other penalties/charges at ports.
Mandaviya said various technological/digital inductions like e-invoice and e-payment, among others, were expedited to maintain smooth functioning without human interference. India has 12 major ports under the control of the central government - Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia).
Impacted by disruptions caused due to the pandemic, the major ports registered a 16.56 per cent dip in cargo handled by them to 245.04 million tonnes (MT) between April and August this fiscal, according to apex ports body IPA. These 12 ports had together handled 293.67 MT of cargo during April-August 2019-20.