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Indian container cargo to grow at 8% in FY25 amid Red Sea crisis

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NEW DELHI : India’s coal cargo throughput at ports is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 3-4 per cent from FY24 to FY26, despite an anticipated decline in coal imports by 2-3 per cent, CareEdge Ratings projected in its recent report.

The rating agency in its latest report added that the share of coastal cargo is expected to rise from 33 percent in financial year 24 to 42 percent by financial year 2026.

Coastal movement of coal along the eastern coast, complemented by added capacities and synergistic benefits will be the main drivers of this growth, the report added.

The Red Sea crisis has led to an increase in voyage span by 15-20 days, in addition to higher freight rates. However, the capacity liners’ readiness to expand container capacity–owing to healthy profitability by chartering additional vessels, cascading capacity from other regions, and accelerating fleet renewal–bodes well for mitigating the increased transit times. The impact on cargo will primarily affect food grains and other perishable items, along with freight-sensitive or low-value cargo, which is estimated at 10-15 per cent of container volumes.

Therefore, the report expects container volume growth to grow by 8 per cent at 342 MMT in FY25, amid the risk of a prolonged Red Sea crisis. Going forward, significant adverse movement in charter rates impacting cargo volumes and vessel addition by shipping lines shall be key monitorable, the report added.

India’s maritime sector includes 12 major ports and over 200 non-major ports along its 7,500 km coastline. For the financial year ending March 31, 2024 (FY24), cargo throughput at Indian ports reached an all-time high of 1539 million metric tonnes (MMT), representing a growth of approximately 7 per cent compared to the previous year (Financial Year 2023).

The report further added that Crude Oil, Coal and Containers represent 74-75 per cent of total cargo throughput handled by ports. Over the past 3 years ended FY24, POL witnessed a moderate CAGR of 4 per cent while coal and container volumes witnessed healthy CAGR of 13 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.

The agency further expects the coastal throughput to increase from 60 MMT in financial year 2021 to 131 MMT in financial year 2024 reflecting a healthy CAGR of around 30 per cent. The same was largely driven by an increase in cargo movement on the eastern coast with the ramp-up of overall volumes at Paradip, Gangavaram, Krishnapatnam, Dhamra and Gopalpur ports. The contribution of coal cargo to the overall coastal volumes has increased from 22 per cent in FY21 to 33 per cent in FY24.

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