The movement of ships in and out of Mumbai’s ports remains suspended following last Saturday’s collision between a cargo vessel and a container ship, and fears that the disruption could last beyond two weeks are leading one carmaker to look at emergency logistics measures to meet production schedules.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT) is India’s busiest container port and handled around 4.1m containers in the year ending March 30, but it remained closed on Wednesday. As did the adjacent Old Mumbai Port (MbPT), which handles ro-ro traffic including automotive for carmakers including Tata, GM, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Renault, which has a number of joint ventures in India's north east region.
The closures were the result of a collision on Saturday morning between the container vessel MSC Chitra and the cargo vessel MV Khalijia III. The Chitra remains listing badly eight nautical miles from the coast. It has lost around 250 containers from its deck, presenting navigational problems for other ships in the area, and is estimated to have spilled around 400 tonnes of oil, which could take up to a month to bring under control.
The Khalijia 3, which was not as badly damaged, was able to make it to berth and no crew members on either vessel were hurt.
However, the shutdown means that around 18 ships are currently waiting to enter both the ports, with an equal number of ships waiting to get out.
Renault India uses JNPT to ship out components from Indian suppliers to its plants in Europe and the company said that while the volume is currently not very large, the effects of last week’s collision is being felt.
“Renault currently has several containers, containing critical parts, awaiting shipment from JNPT,” spokesperson Ashish Sinharoy told Automotive Logistics News yesterday.
At the moment Renault is facing delays in shipment by about one week, which is not affecting the schedules too much according to the company, though it reports the delivery gates for these components at its European plants are getting tighter.
“However,” added Sinharoy, “as is now being suggested, if the delay goes beyond two weeks we will have to take immediate remedial action, something which our logistics team is already working on.
“We are evaluating the contents of the delayed containers to track the most critical components in these consignments, these will then have to be airlifted in an emergency situation since it will definitely affect production schedules at our European plants. Of course, it will add to costs, but then there is no other way out under these circumstances.”
Daimler, meanwhile, would only say that it was closely monitoring further developments in the wake of the collision but “was confident that it would be able to adjust any skews in shipments”.
Likewise, Mahindra said its nearby plants were likely to function normally. The company sources the majority of components from the surrounding Mumbai-Pune-Nasik region, though it does use 25 overseas suppliers in Europe and South East Asia for high-end vehicle production.
GM added that its component delivery reached the port prior to the collision and that production had not been affected so far.
Local sources report that Mumbai port has had problems with damaged vessels for some time. Thirteen ships have sunk there in the last ten years, themselves causing a further danger to ships using the channel into the port as well as adding to the ecological problems in the area.
There are also reported to be around 30 further vessels that have been rusting in Mumbai harbour since July 2007 when the Director General of Shipping deemed them unfit to operate according to the Indian Register of Shipping. While some of the ships are anchored near Ferry Wharf, a majority of them are pitching and rolling in the rough seas in the main navigation channel leading to the harbour.