Thermal coal imports at India's 12 major ports dropped 34.70 per cent to 17.71 million tonnes (MT) in the first quarter of the current fiscal, according to the Indian Ports' Association (IPA).
Impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, coking coal imports too witnessed a decline of 28.49 per cent to 10.69 MT in the quarter.
These ports had handled 27.13 MT of thermal coal and 14.95 MT of coking coal in the April-June period of the previous financial year.
The IPA, which maintains cargo data handled by these ports, in its latest report said "percentage variation from the previous year" in thermal coal and coking coal handling was 34.70 per cent and 28.49 per cent, respectively.
Thermal coal is the mainstay of India's energy programme as 70 per cent of power generation is dependent on the dry fuel, while coking coal is used mainly for steel making.
India is the third-largest producer of coal after China and the US, and has 299 billion tonnes of resources and 123 billion tonnes of proven reserves, which may last for over 100 years.
India has 12 major ports -- Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (Ennore), V O Chidambaranar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) -- that handle about 61 per cent of the country's total cargo traffic.
These 12 ports had handled 705 MT of cargo in the last financial year.
Cargo handled by the country's major ports declined by 19.68 per cent to 141.92 MT in the first quarter of this fiscal.
These 12 ports had together handled 176.69 MT of cargo during April-June period of 2018-19.
Ports like Chennai and Kamrajar saw their cargo volumes nosedive about 40 per cent during April-June, while Kolkata and JNPT suffered a drop of over 30 per cent.
While Chennai port saw 39.91 per cent decline in cargo handling to 7.28 MT, Kamarajar (Ennore) port suffered a drop of 39.41 per cent to 5.16 MT in April-June, as per IPA data.
Cargo handling at Cochin port slipped 33.78 per cent to 5.63 MT, while the same at JNPT declined 31.38 per cent to 12.09 MT. Kolkata port logged a fall of 27.26 per cent to 11.72 MT.
Container trade was severely hit as it recorded a decline of 32.28 per cent in terms of TEU (twenty foot equivalent unit), while thermal coal handling declined by 34.70 per cent.
Ratings agency Icra had earlier said that while all cargo segments are vulnerable, container segment is expected to be more adversely impacted.
While general cargo throughput may witness 5-8 per cent contraction for the full year 2020-21, the container segment may drop 12-15 per cent, it had said.