It will give the EXIM community a cost advantage by lowering hinterland logistical expenditure

In a move than could make Indian exports more competitive globally, Union Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal virtually flagged-off the Dwarf Container Train service from Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra on Monday.

This will enable JNPT to offer lower logistics costs to the EXIM community.

It will also increase rail as well as overall container volume throughput, decongest gate and road cargo traffic, and promote direct port delivery, said the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways.

The new service offers another important benefit.

Currently, the export trade is facing a shortage of ISO containers, which are large in size and can be used across different modes of transport like ships, trains, and trucks.

This initiative can be a game changer as the turnaround time will come down from several months to a few days as the import-laden ISO containers need not go all the way to the hinterland.

Cargo transfer from ISO containers to dwarf containers would be carried out at JNPT's Dwarf Container Depot, thereby making empty ISO containers available at the port itself for export repositioning, the ministry said.

The cargo will be emptied and shifted to dwarf containers and the empty ISO containers would be readily available to the exporters.

The rail movement of EXIM cargo through double stacked dwarf containers would also offer a competitive cost advantage to the EXIM community, resulting in an increase in port cargo traffic via rail route, the ministry added.

The Dwarf Containers are lesser in height by 660 mm than normal ISO containers, giving them a logistical edge. The low height of dwarf container loaded on trailers can pass through rural, semi urban and urban roads, through limited height subways & level crossing in electrified sections.

The ‘Dwarf’ containers also provide a 67% increase in volume when double-stacked and can carry a weight of 71 tons, against 40 tons by an ISO container, the ministry pointed out.

The Indian Railways has offered 17% discount on haulage cost compared to double stack ISO container trains, resulting in an overall 33% discount to shippers making Indian Railways competitive.

The first consignment of laden Dwarf containers from Dwarf container depot (DCD) at the port was moved by train to ICD Kanpur.

According to Sonowal, the commencement of Dwarf container train services from JNPT is a pivotal step towards streamlining the rail movement of EXIM cargo via double-stacked dwarf containers.

He said this will give the EXIM community a competitive cost advantage by lowering hinterland logistical costs, while simultaneously enhancing rail-cargo traffic at JNPT.

Another plus point, Sonowal added, was that dwarf containers are port-friendly and can be manufactured in India at a cost-efficient price point, thereby opening-up opportunities for Make in India.