Essar Ports, which procures more than 90 per cent of its business from group companies, has declared that it is at present insulated from the slowdown. "We will leverage our partnership with Europe's Port of Antwerp to get new clients outside the group," Mr Rajiv Agarwal, Managing Director of Essar Ports, said.
According to Exim News Service, the firm is also looking at cutting back its international ambitions in order to focus on India, where it plans to boost port capacity to 160 million tonnes (mt) by 2014 from the present 88 mt.
In May, Belgium's Port of Antwerp International (PAI) invested about Rs 175 crore in Essar Ports through global depository shares.
Mr Agarwal said PAI would help the firm attract new customers. "They (PAI) want cargo from here to go to their ports and we want cargo from there to get offloaded on our ports. We are working towards a model through which we both can be benefitted," he said.
"Definitely, there is some slowdown in cargo volumes, but we have a guaranteed cargo base from our group companies so we are sort of unaffected by it," he said.
Essar Ports, which has facilities at Hazira and Vadinar, so far considered its group companies—Essar Steel, Essar Oil and Essar Power—as its major customers. It now wants to reduce dependence on group firms to about 70 per cent by 2015.
It has been applying for handling third-party cargo to the tune of 1-2 mt in FY 13 and "is also planning to invest in crude tankages for traders and national oil companies, helping better utilise the excess capacity at Vadinar," Mr Agarwal said.
In 2011-12, Essar Ports, which currently operates at half its capacity, handled close to 43 mt of cargo. This figure is expected to rise to about 65 mt in 2012-13.
The company is building a new port at Salaya in Gujarat and two terminals at Paradip in Odisha. With these to commence operations by 2014, it would have fortified its capacity to 160 mt. "We can further increase capacity to 250 mt if we need," Mr Agarwal added.