New Delhi, May 25 (PTI) Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, thermal coal imports at India''s 12 major ports saw a 30.46 per cent plunge at 7.8 million tonnes (MT) in the first month of the current fiscal, as per the ports body IPA.
These Centre-owned ports had handled 11.27 MT of thermal coal in the same month of 2018-19.
The Indian Ports Association (IPA), which maintains cargo data handled by these 12 ports, in its latest report said "percentage variation from previous year" in thermal coal handling was at 30.46 per cent.
Imports of coking and other coal too declined 17.07 per cent at 4.27 MT during the month. These ports had handled 5.15 MT of coking coal in the corresponding month last fiscal.
Thermal coal is the mainstay of India''s energy programme as 70 per cent of power generation is dependent on the dry fuel, while coking coal is used mainly for steel-making.
India is the third-largest producer of coal after China and the US and has 299 billion tonnes of resources and 123 billion tonnes of proven reserves, which may last for over 100 years.
India has 12 major ports -- Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (Ennore), V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) -- which handle approximately 61 per cent of the country''s total cargo traffic.
These ports had recorded a 21 per cent decline in cargo volumes to 47.42 MT in April this year, mainly due to coronavirus outbreak.
Ports like JNPT, Chennai, Cochin and Kamrajar witnessed huge decline in cargo handling, as per the latest data.
Chennai Port saw a massive 38.17 per cent fall in cargo handling to 2.44 MT and JNPT by 33.97 per cent to 3.95 MT in April.
Cargo handling at Cochin port slipped 33.73 per cent to 1.87 MT, and Kamrajar Port 30.03 per cent to 2.08 MT, the data showed.
Container trade was severely hit as it recorded a decline of 36.98 per cent in terms of TEU (twenty foot equivalent unit), followed by 30.46 per cent fall in thermal coal.
Rating agency Icra had last week said that while all cargo segments are vulnerable, container segment is expected to be more adversely impacted.
It said that while general cargo throughput may witness 5-8 per cent contraction for full year 2020-21, the container segment may witness a decline of 12-15 per cent during the same period.
These major ports had handled 705 MT cargo in the last fiscal.