Ever since its foray into coastal transport, Ambuja has greatly enabled swifter transportation of bulk cement and brought many coastal markets within easy reach.
Ambuja Cements has the distinction of exploiting the advantages of sea route transport in the Indian cement market. Rama Murthy Nety, Head - Ports & Shipping, speaks on the success story.
Ambuja Cement pioneered the use of sea route transport in India. How has been the journey so far?
Ambuja Cement was the first Indian cement manufacturer to pioneer transportation of bulk cement by sea in September 1993.
With a commitment to facilitate timely, cost-effective and environment friendly shipments, Ambuja was the first Indian cement company to build captive ports and terminals along the country´s western coastline. Ever since its foray into coastal transport, Ambuja has greatly enabled swifter transportation of bulk cement and brought many coastal markets within easy reach.
Currently Ambuja Cement has three captive ports - Muldwarka in Gir Somnath, Magdalla in Surat and Ulwa in Panvel. The very first jetties were commissioned in Muldwarka and Panvel in 1993, followed by the Surat jetty in 1995.
Steadily, Ambuja increased the number of ships (cement carriers) in tandem with increase in dispatches at Ambuja ports. At Muldwarka, Ambuja has two terminals -a coastal terminal with 2.5 MT capacity and an export/import terminal with 2.5 MT capacity. At Ulwa port, Ambuja has a 2 MT capacity terminal, while at Surat it has a 1.5 MT capacity terminal.
Additionally, Ambuja has established bulk cement terminals in the major ports of Kochi and Mangalore with a capacity of 1 MT.
What is the quantum of cement being transported at present by the sea route? Which destinations are being serviced? What are your plans for the future?
The key markets that Ambuja supplies cement to in bulk via sea transport are Mumbai, Surat, Kochi and Mangalore. In 2015, Ambuja transported 1.6 MT to Ulwa, 0.80 MT to Magdalla and 0.4 MT to Cochin and New Mangalore. In 2016, we have plans to transport 1.7 MT to Ulwa, 0.8 MT to Magdalla and 0.5 MT to Cochin and New Mangalore. In the coming years, as the market improves, Ambuja is geared up to increase sea transportation to the bulk terminals.
Do you use ships/barges to transport cement? Can you indicate the capacity per ship and the number of ships deployed?
The cement is first transferred from Ambujanagar to Muldwarka silos via road bulkers. From the Muldwarka silos, the cement is loaded on ships via conveyers. The ships are equipped with specialised cement discharge machinery on board to unload cement to conveyers at Surat and Panvel. The same is stored in silos for further distribution amongst stakeholders.
Ambuja has a strong and robust fleet of 10 ships to ferry bulk cement to the packaging units. The fleet consists of Ambuja Shikhar, Ambuja Vaibhava, Ambuja Gaurava - 2,800 DWT, mechanical type; Ambuja Shakti, Ambuja Keerti - 2,640 DWT pneumatic type; Ambuja Rohini - 2,880 DWT pneumatic type; Ambuja Bhavani, Ambuja Lakshmi, Ambuja Gauri, Ambuja Mukund - 4,000 DWT mechanical type. In addition, the company deploys a chartered vessel of 18,000 DWT for transporting bulk cement to its Kochi and New Mangalore terminals.
What are the safety precautions that you take?
Safety is one of our core principles and an overarching value, which we imbibe across all facets of our maintenance and operations. The monsoon on the west coast of India is very severe and requires ships to be strong, thoroughly maintained in an efficient state of hull and machinery, with highly skilled and trained seafarers. Enormous amount of efforts go into pre-monsoon inspection, maintenance and safe operations of our captive ships before and during the season. Rigorous training of ship and shore staff is the hallmark of our shipping operations.
What has been the set-up at Kochi Port and what is the scale of operations? Ambuja has expanded its marketing capability by establishing a bulk cement terminal in the major port of Kochi. The capacity for the terminals is 1 MT.
What is the special machinery you deploy to load and unload ships?
The ships are equipped with specialised cement discharge machinery on board to unload cement to conveyers at Surat and Panvel. This is a complete close loop system without requirement of manual intervention. The system operates in the rainy season as well without any limitation, as the system on board ships and loading/discharging conveyor systems are fully covered. Load/discharge rate achieved is much higher than loading/unloading of bulk/ bag cement on bulk carriers.
In terms of cost comparison, where does sea route transport stand?
Delivery of bulk cement via sea transport ensures safe and timely delivery, and also helps save up to 40 per cent of road transport costs. Ambuja has successfully functioned and managed to operate to its best potential via coastal shipping ever since its inception, enabling transportation of 3 MT per annum. In the extreme circumstances of Muldwarka port experiencing bad weather continuously for many days, the sea transportation gets affected accordingly in view of safety parameters.
What is the future of sea/inland water transport in our country, considering the policy announcements made recently by the government?
Ambuja is conscious of reducing its carbon footprint and encouraging sustainable growth, and has taken steps to incorporate the same in its operational framework. It was able to reduce CO2 emissions (gm/ton-mile) to 18 via coastal transport while compared to emissions of 81.5 from road transport.
The recent initiative of the government to dredge inland waterways, make them all-weather navigable channels and establish multimodal transport terminals will go a long way in promoting sea transport of cargo in the country.