Mumbai traffic, while bad on its own, swells to disastrous levels when container traffic from the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), the country’s largest container port at Navi Mumbai, moves inward. Complaints of extensive traffic snarls owing to slow movement of the container traffic on roads connecting the Mumbai-Pune expressway and the Mumbai-Goa Highway are almost mundane.
But the port and highway authorities have now planned construction of a 43.9 kilometre long dedicated corridor for container traffic moving in and out of the port, which, they claim, will get rid of this congestion within a couple of years.
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The corridor, estimated to cost nearly Rs 3000 crore, figures among a host of reforms that the port has proposed for the “achievement of zero congestion for port traffic.”
It has formed a Special Purpose Vehicle with the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd (CIDCO) for building the corridor. Anil Diggikar, Chairman, JNPT said, “We have already secured a Rs 400 million dollar loan from the State Bank of India and the Bank of Singapore for the project. They have extended the loan at a 3 per cent interest rate.”
“The project involves upgradation of existing four lane road connectivity to six/eight of NH-4B (Palaspe to JnPT), and SH-54 (Panvel Uran state highway), and the Amra Marg intersection in Navi Mumbai. The widened road stretches will be reserved for signal free container traffic,” said Prashant Fegade, Project Director, NHAI. “Cars and buses plying on the stretch will be shifted to service roads to be newly constructed on either side of the dedicated corridor. They won’t have access to the dedicated corridor,” he said.
The road project will include construction of interchange and clover leaf formations at two locations for entering and exiting of the container traffic on the dedicated corridor, said Fegade. Contracts for four of the five packages of civil work for the project have been awarded already. Officials further said that it was important to complete the project in a time-bound fashion in the next two years. “The cargo traffic handled by the port will more than double once the work for addition of the fourth terminal is completed. While the peak hour traffic across the stretch to be widened is measured currently at 75,000 vehicles, this is estimated to go up to 1.75 lakh vehicles in a few years,” a source said.
“Bringing the container traffic on a dedicated corridor will take the load off on other roads and ease overall congestion levels,” said Neeraj Bansal, Deputy Chairman, JnPT. Officials, however, admitted to facing certain challenges while implementing the project. “Diverting existing traffic and shifting of utilities during construction will pose a challenge. The removal of encroachments, too, is key to the project,” said an official. A road overbridge near Sheva police station in Navi Mumbai and two flyovers at the JnPT gates have been separately proposed.
Meanwhile, as part of the modernisation plans, Bansal informed that the JnPT has also been focussing on changing the way transporters move their truck into and out of the port. To improve the turnaround time of cargo handling, the port has now extended a green channel to importers possessing accreditation status of the customs. “We are offering direct port delivery (DPD) to such agencies. While import laden containers are normally transferred from the terminal to container freight stations (CFS) before being cleared and delivered, the DPD allows containers to be delivered to the importer directly from the terminals instead of routing through CFS,” said Bansal. “No manual custom clearance is done inside the port under DPDs,” added Diggikar. While port authorities claimed that the reform has helped better the turnaround time and the overall throughput,
Diggikar confirmed that the “lack of information” among importers meant that only 91 out of the 778 agencies have opted for the green channel so far. “Our target is to switch about 40 per cent of the container traffic on the DPD mode,” said Diggikar. Beside reducing delivery time, Bansal said that the reform will also save the importer Rs 8000-Rs 20000 in cost.
Bansal informed that other moves like allowing inter-terminal transfers, constructing holding yard for all terminals, monitoring traffic real time, and shifting custom operations from gates to the holding yard have helped improve the port’s cargo handling performance.
“We have also taken up a project to construct a centralised parking plaza for all terminals to ease port congestion further. The new facility will be spread over 100 acre land and will cost Rs 170 crore,” said Diggikar.