Labour shortage hits JNPT throughput

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Published: June 9, 2020 5:20 AM

Most of labourers including truck drivers contracted with JNPT and other labours with export houses have left for their hometowns impacting the operations both at the factories and at the port.

Exports from JNPT had increased to 67% of the trend average by April-end, up from 45% in March 2020.

A labour shortage resulting from migrant labourers going back to their home states via the special Shramik Express trains in May has adversely affected exports through the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), India’s largest container port.

Exports from JNPT had increased to 67% of the trend average by April-end, up from 45% in March 2020. However, the exports via the port went down again in May as 70% of contracted labour force went back to their home towns, though JNPT maintained 95% of its self-employed labour force at all its five terminals, a senior port official said.

Most of labourers including truck drivers contracted with JNPT and other labours with export houses have left for their hometowns impacting the operations both at the factories and at the port.

“The opportunity to go back for free, and safety of their families were such strong triggers that even attempts to pay double salaries have not worked. Exporters have been employing all tactics to save their labour force but they are not able to hold them back,” an Agriculture and Processed Food Export Development Authority (Apeda) official said. The month of April saw increase in exports of potato, chilli, egg plant, yam, mix vegetables, lemon and ginger as per the data from National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO), through JNPT.

Sanjay Sethi, chairman of JNPT, told FE, “We are expecting our lashing staff from Uttar Pradesh and other places to leave, but that has not happened. As far as drivers are concerned, many had left before the lockdown. So we have tried to get drivers from other parts of Maharashtra. We have given advertisements on television in response to which we even got drivers from outside the State, which includes UP.”

Even the inventory levels at the port, and the five container freight stations (CFS) have improved over the last month, when there were around 95,000 containers languishing at the CFS and were to be moved to the inland container depots (ICDs) to reduce congestion after the entire economic activity had come to a halt. “Our inventory levels at the port is around 65%, while at the CFS, which is operated by private players, has improved to 53%,” Sethi said.

The five CFS have a capacity of 1.21 lakh TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units) while there is another 15,000 TEU maintained by another private entity. The port, too, has a capacity of 1 lakh TEUs at its terminals.

Going forward, exporters are planning to increase mechanisation at the loading, unloading and at packaging level to counter the volatility in labour workforce. “With an investment of Rs 35 lakh to Rs 40 lakh and a 40% subsidy from Apeda, it is likely that the exporters will be able to overcome the shortcomings due to labour shortage in the medium to long term,” the Apeda official said.

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