Sarjak expands its horizon: It’s time to revamp the logic behind logistics industry
Since its inception in October 2003 in Mumbai as an NVOCC, specialising in the carriage of Over Dimensional Cargo (ODC), Sarjak Container Lines Pvt Ltd. (SCLPL) is true to its foundational vision of expanding its services beyond the shores of India.
Completing its 10th anniversary, Sarjak seamlessly has established its footprints across strategic commercial maritime hubs in a systematic manner. Between 2004 and 2008 the company had expanded its resources in terms of containers, overseas agency network across major Asian ports, human resources and back office IT/office infrastructure.
Expanding steadily, it forayed into Europe and Russia/Baltic in 2009, established a service in the Mediterranean and Red Sea Ports and set up China operations in 2012 and further enlarged its service to the CIS countries, North African ports and Black Sea Ports in 2013.
At the commemoration of its 10th anniversary, Sagar Sandesh caught up with Capt. Rumi Engineer, Senior President, SCLPL, at the Mumbai office and heard him on hot and critical issues faced by the ODC and OOG logistics industry.
Tell us about how the project cargo market in India is currently trending out?
Traditionally, demand has been emanating from heavy manufacturing industries and Sarjak has been heavily involved in shipping ODC shipments for the sugar manufacturing plants, pressure vessels, desalination plants, power projects, float glass, etc. With infrastructure and manufacturing sector getting due attention from the industry and the Government there is major scope for project cargo movement in the country. But we need to get our game plan right on infrastructure availability to meet the burgeoning requirements.
What kind of infrastructure support are you looking for to spur the growth of project cargo sector?
We have a poor track record in terms of tapping the inland waterways and coastal shipping that are 0.15% and 7% respectively utilised, as of now. With close to 4, 400 km of inland waterways and 7, 517 km of sea coast, the river and sea routes are more ecologically sustainable as well as a much cheaper mode of transportation than rail and roadways. It’s economically cheaper to move goods by barge than by truck trailers or rail wagons.
Much has been said and written about the utilisation of coastal and inland mode of transportation especially for heavy cargo, but little has been done to make it a resounding reality. Sadly, it’s all talk with little concrete action. Coastal, inland waterways and road infrastructure should have the right equilibrium to supplement and complement one another for moving cargo to any corner of the Indian hinterland.
The Government should provide a stimulus package, such as the European Marcopolo fund to develop terminals, jetties and berths for priming up the inland waterways. Dedicated berths carved out of the port area for coastal cargo is also a good idea.
In the current scenario, roadways have to be thoroughly revamped and redesigned to haul heavy project cargo without incidents and mishaps. De-congesting national highways and strengthening roads, bridges and culverts are the needs of the hour to enable faster ferrying of mammoth ODCs and OOGs to their project job sites.
As the saying goes, Indian logistics cost is twice than that of global benchmark and what is your take on that?
Owing much to our infrastructure bottlenecks and capacity constraints, costs are unsurprisingly high and this is not a happy situation when we target higher growth and business in the sector. To be globally competitive as other logistics hubs in the world we should mitigate the cost by strengthening our infrastructure that is dogged by all kinds of challenges. Business environment should be free of unfavourable activities and operational uncertainties like labour unrest as it is the merchant who is going to bear the ultimate brunt on incidental costs arising out of such inimical situations.
How are the West Coast ports panning out in terms of growth and traffic?
When compared to Maharashtra, some of the private ports in Gujarat like Pipavav, Mundra and Hazira are catching up by offering better connectivity, faster turnaround time, labour friendly operations, mechanization, speedier discharge of cargo, etc. It’s a wake-up call to neighbouring Maharashtra to get its act together with regard to port infrastructure including approaches to the port and not lose its business to competitive ports of Gujarat.
How is the manpower scenario in Indian logistics industry?
This is a daunting challenge. Identifying the right man for the right job is a humongous exercise. Large number of unemployables out there point to a fact that training institutes do not hone students to meet the industry needs of international standards. Run of the mill courses do not fulfill the requirements of the industry.We should emulate the training methods and modules from the UK that produces industry sought professionals. Training plays a very vital part in the overall development of our staff and Sarjak lays great emphasis on training staff internally as well as externally. There is a huge cost attached to this, but it is an investment well spent.