India’s marine experts believe that manufacturing containers in India may not be as smooth as assured by the government. In a webinar hosted by Maritime Gateway in association with Concor on 3 June, the panel was in consensus that the availability of Corton steel, automation levels and economies of scale pose a big challenge for local industrialists in manufacturing boxes in the country.
Indian steelmakers are all on board with the government on providing customised Corton steel, however, it must be noted that while the technology is not new to India, it has never been manufactured in the country before. Local industrialists in Bhavnagar, where the government is planning to set up an indigenous box-making hub, are also reluctant because of the rising steel prices in the past year.
At a local level, an order of five containers has been given to Aawadhkrupa Plastomech in Bhavnagar by Pushpak Logistics that will be ready in one month for testing in the pilot project. Speaking with Container News, Kirit Soni, President of Saurashtra Chamber of Commerce & Industry said, "In the coming days one of the Indian institutes of technology will work on the feasibility of converting recycled steel into Corton steel and therefore the government is focused on setting up a vehicle scrapyard in Bhavnagar."
Meanwhile, Concor, which already placed an order of 1000 containers each with BHEL and Braithwaite & Co, has also put out a tender for a developmental order of 1000 containers each to a maximum of six successful bidders at an estimated cost of US$26.97 million. It has scheduled a pre-bid meeting on 14 June and the bids will be opened on 13 July.
With soaring ocean freight rates, Concor has taken several steps in repositioning containers along with moving empty containers from port to hinterland easing the crunch. During the webinar, Santosh Sinha, Executive Director (Projects & Services) at Concor, said that the company gave a 50% discount on inland transportation from port to hinterland. This waiver was to continue till May 2021 but has been extended till March 2022 after receiving a positive response. On the other hand, Braithwaite & Co. has developed two prototypes of containers which will be available for testing soon.
"In the next six months, we will be ready with our prototypes. Parallelly we are expecting the big companies to help in manufacturing boxes as per the existing designs in the international market in the next 2-3 months," added Kirit Soni.