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According to the Ministry of Shipping, around 95 per cent of India's trading by volume and 70 per cent by value is done through maritime transport.

India has 12 major and 187 non-major ports. Cargo traffic, which recorded 1,052 million metric tonnes (MMT) in 2015, is expected to reach 1,758 MMT by 2017. The Indian ports and shipping industry plays a vital role in sustaining growth in the country’s trade and commerce. India is the sixteenth largest maritime country in the world, with a coastline of about 7,517 km. The Indian Government plays an important role in supporting the ports sector. It has allowed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of up to 100 per cent under the automatic route for port and harbour construction and maintenance projects. It has also facilitated a 10-year tax holiday to enterprises that develop, maintain and operate ports, inland waterways and inland ports.

Market size

The handling capacity of major ports in India is sufficient to match trade demand. The capacity of all the major ports as on March 31, 2015 was 871.52 MMT, compared with 581.54 MMT in cargo traffic handled through 2014–15. Thus, the capacity utilisation through 2014–15 was around 66 per cent. Furthermore, as per internationally-accepted norms, the gap between traffic and capacity is usually around 30 per cent. Additionally, the government has taken several measures to improve operational efficiency through mechanisation, deepening the draft and speedy evacuations.

According to the latest provisional data from Indian Ports Association, the publicly-owned major ports in India reported healthier levels of growth in container throughput in FY 2014–15 than in the previous year. Container-handling in FY 2015 expanded 6.7 per cent year-over-year to 8 million twenty foot-equivalent units (TEUs) from 7.46 million TEUs through the same period in 2013–14. The data also showed that containerised cargo tonnage grew 4 per cent to 119 million tons.

In FY 2014–15, cargo volumes at the major ports expanded 4.7 per cent year-over-year to 581.3 MMT. In FY15, coal cargo traffic grew 13.4 per cent to 118.1 MMT from 104.2 MMT in FY14. With regard to commodities, fertiliser handling rose 19 per cent to 16.3 MMT in FY15. The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, reported that the Indian ports sector received FDI worth US$ 1,637.3 million between April 2000 and September 2015. Currently1, there are about 44 ongoing projects undertaken at major ports in India, with total investment of over Rs 25,870 crore (US$ 3.88 billion).


The Indian Minister for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, Mr Nitin Gadkari, announced a massive investment in India’s ports and roads sector, which is likely to help boost the country’s economy. The Indian government plans to develop 10 coastal economic regions as part of plans to revive the country’s Sagarmala (string of ports) project.

The zones would be converted into manufacturing hubs, supported by port modernisation projects, and could span 300–500 km of the coastline. The government is also looking to develop the inland waterway sector as an alternative to road and rail routes to transport goods to the nation’s ports and hopes to attract private investment in the sector.

  • Government of India plans to invest Rs 70,000 crore (US$ 10.5 billion) in 12 major ports in the next five years under 'Sagarmala' initiative.
  • Government of India is planning to set up low-cost non-major ports along coastline under the Sagarmala project and has asked all the 12 major ports to accord priority berthing to such vessels and to encourage quicker movement of cargo.
  • Jindal ITF plans to invest nearly Rs 500 crore (US$ 75 million) to further transloading operations in Haldia. The company, which already transports imported coal in barges to NTPC's power plants in Farakka and Kahalgaon from the Sandheads, plans to transload cargo at the deep-drafted location at Kanika Sands and transport it to Haldia.
  • A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) and Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCCIL) to create logistics hubs with rail connectivity at Varanasi and other places on national waterways. The joint development of state-of-the-art logistics hubs at Varanasi and other areas would lead to the convergence of inland waterways with railways and roadways, thus providing a seamless, efficient and cost-effective cargo transportation solution.
  • The state-run Shipping Corporation of India Ltd (SCI) is expected to purchase five vessels from the state-owned Cochin Shipyard Ltd. It is also likely to issue tenders to buy two used liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) carriers as it looks to re-start ship purchases that were frozen after poor financial performance.
  • Kamarajar Port Limited (KPL, erstwhile Ennore Port Limited) has signed an agreement with M/s Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt Ltd to export automobile units through Kamarajar Port. The agreement primarily includes a clause that would restrict original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to use KPL as their primary port. KPL would in turn offer volume-based discounts on the tariffs on certain facilities for the smooth functioning of operations.
  • The Visakhapatnam Port Trust (VPT) has outlined an Rs 3,000 crore (US$ 450 million) expansion-cum-modernisation plan aimed at enhancing the port's capacity by nearly 50 per cent. The port is estimated to invest Rs 800 crore (US$ 120 million), a fourth of the planned investment, while seeking private partners to invest the remainder by way of public-private partnerships (PPPs).
  • Maharashtra’s Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) plans to build a satellite port at Wadhwan near Dahanu (bordering Gujarat), which is estimated to cost Rs 10,000 crore (US$ 1.5 billion) to build and likely to ease the congestion of ships at JNPT.

Government Initiatives

While unveiling plans worth Rs 10 trillion (US$ 150 billion) in the highway and shipping sectors by 2019, India’s Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping, Mr Nitin Gadkari, stated that the country’s basic infrastructure is forecast to change in the next five years. The Ministry of Shipping plans to launch the National Perspective Plan (NPP) by January 2016 which aims at comprehensive and integrated development of Indian coastline by identifying potential geographical regions to be called Coastal Economic Zones (CEZs) extending 300-500 km along the coast and 200-300 km inland.

The Union Minister stated that the Government of India has set an ambitious target to convert 101 rivers across the country into waterways to promote water transport and propel economic growth.

The government plans to establish two new major ports, one at Sagar in West Bengal and the other at Dugarajapatnam in the Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh. Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi has laid the foundation stone for the Fourth Container Terminal of Jawaharlal Nehru Port at Mumbai, which is expected to increase the existing capacity of the container terminal by more than twice.

The Ministry of Shipping, in collaboration with Rajasthan government, has planned to develop an Inland Shipping Port at Jalore, Rajasthan.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the Mechanisation of East Quay (EQ) Berths-1, 2 and 3 at Paradip Port on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis, under Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode, which will increase their coal handling capacity from existing 7.85 million tonnes to 30 million tonnes.

The government is considering a proposal to set up an Integrated National Waterways Transport Grid (INWTG), which covers primarily five national waterways. The INWTG plan involves the development of these national waterways with at least 2.5 metres of least available depth (LAD), upgrade/setting up of priority terminals, and establishment of road connectivity (wherever feasible) and rail and port connectivity. The Central Government has approved amendments to 'The National Waterways Bill, 2015' which will provide for enacting a Central Legislation to declare 106 additional inland waterways, as the national waterways.

The Government is undertaking the following measures for the ports’ capacity expansion:

  • Up to 100 per cent FDI would be allowed under the automatic route for port development projects.
  • Income tax incentives would be allowed as per the Income Tax Act, 1961.
  • Bidding documents such as RFQ, RFP and Concession Agreement have been standardised.
  • The Shipping Ministry’s power to delegate finances has been enhanced to accord investment approval for PPP projects.
  • Security clearance procedures have been streamlined.
  • The major ports’ developmental projects are being closely monitored.

The Ministry of Shipping has formulated a Perspective Plan ‘The Maritime Agenda 2010–2020’ to develop the maritime sector. This Plan includes forecasts for traffic and capacity additions at the ports up to 2020. The estimated capacity of the ports would be 3,130 MMT by 2019–20. The Union Ministry of Shipping has chalked out a comprehensive plan to raise Rs 100,000 crore (US$ 15 billion) to develop ports, build ships and improve inland waterways in the country.

Road ahead

Increasing investments and cargo traffic point towards a healthy outlook for the Indian ports sector. Providers of services such as operation and maintenance (O&M), pilotage and harbouring and marine assets such as barges and dredgers are benefiting from these investments.

The Planning Commission of India forecasts an investment of Rs 180,626 crore (US$ 27.1 billion) for this industry in its 12th Five Year Plan. In addition, through The Maritime Agenda 2010–2020, the Ministry of Shipping has set a target capacity of over 3,130 MMT by 2020, which would be driven by participation from the private sector. Non-major ports are expected to generate over 50 per cent of this capacity.

Exchange Rate: INR 1 = US$ 0.015 as on December 17, 2015

References: Indian Ports Association, Ministry of Shipping, Media Reports, Press Releases

Disclaimer: ECI is not responsible for any errors in the information