As India’s transformative journey towards becoming a major trading nation continues, the country’s traditional focus on trade with the West including Europe, the US and the Middle East has now shifted to China and South East Asia.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promoted ‘Act East’ to encourage more trade and business with its Asian neighbours, while Chinese President Xi Jinping has his ‘Go West’ strategy through the Belt and Road Initiative.

With US tariffs impacting both China and India, there is a renewed push to boost trade between the world’s two most populous nations.

As India’s major trading partners are located in Europe and the Middle East, significant investment has focused on the west coast of India and the development of Kandla, Mumbai, Navasheva, Murmagoa, New Mangalore and Kochi ports.

In an exclusive interview with Forward with Toll, Anil Yendluri, CEO of Krishnapatnam Port spoke about how India’s east coast ports have an opportunity to bypass traditional problems of poor infrastructure and red tape and capture growing trade with East Asia.

“Traditionally, shippers wanting to move cargo to the east coast of India have relied on ports on the west coast, and then shipped them thousands of kilometres by road, sea and rail back to the east. We have broken this cycle through the development of transhipment operations through Navayuga Container Terminal (NCT).

“We also have listened to customer feedback related to delays at many Indian ports because of bureaucracy and slow customs processing. Working in partnership with Indian Customs, we can clear cargo in a few hours with advance filing.”

With demand for Indian cargo to be handled at Indian ports instead of being transhipped to Colombo, Singapore or Port Klang, Krishnapatnam port started its transhipment cargo business in 2017.

Now the largest container port in India, Krishnapatnam is a deepwater facility that has an annual throughput of 500,000 TEU.

The port has developed a coastal feeder network through Shreyas Shipping and attracted Intra-Asia carrier Gold Star Line to connect to regional ports. The introduction of these feeder services connecting Krishnapatnam to domestic ports, led to Maersk Line, ZIM and SCI launching calls that link the port to China, Korea, Malaysia and Singapore.

In addition, construction started on the giant Machilipatnam port on the eastern seaboard of Andhra Pradesh state this February. The multipurpose, all-weather port covers 48,000 acres and will have capacity to handle 150,000 tons when completed.

Source: Krishnapatnam Port

Problems with road and rail congestion associated with western Indian ports have been addressed in Andhra Pradesh, the state where both Krishnapatnam and Machilipatnam are located.

“There is a four-lane highway from Krishnapatnam Port direct to National Highway 5, and we have connectivity between the national network and our hinterland and beyond.”

The advantage that many eastern ports have is the availability of land for development, whereas the west coast Indian ports are surrounded by commercial, industrial or residential areas. With the introduction of the ‘Act East’ policy, there is potential for India’s east coast ports to prosper.