Mundra Port – History behind the largest container port in India

By Amruta Talawadekar, Research Associate, Maritime History Society

Being a maritime country with a vast coastline spread across its three sides, India has had a diverse history of thriving ports. From the ancient port town of Lothal during the Indus Valley Civilisation to the modern and recently approved Vadhavan port along the Konkan Coast of India, the ports of the Indian subcontinent have developed dramatically across time. Among the Indian states, Gujarat has been the maritime gateway to the world since ancient times. Being strategically located in the centre of the various maritime routes, Gujarat has been the link for East West trade since the Indus Valley Civilisation. With a number of blooming ports in its territory, Gujarat has been popular for yet another port – the Mundra Port. Let’s talk about the history behind the port that has emerged as the largest container port in India as of Jul 20201.

Located on the Western Coast of India in the Kutch District of Gujarat, the Mundra Port was first established back in the seventeenth century by Rao Bhojrajji I2. The town was fortified which signifies its importance as a commercial centre. Subsequently many other rulers struggled for power knowing the reach of the port across various parts of the world including Zanzibar, Persia, Africa and Qatar. By then, Surat was an important trading centre for India. By the next decade things began to change and Bombay emerged as the new colonial port. Many large-scale ports saw a decline, while new smaller ports emerged. The Mandvi port, located close to Mundra, became a close ally to the Bombay port. Mundra played a crucial role as a supplement to Mandvi and was used as a stopover port for transportation of goods to the inland trading centres. The nineteenth century saw a rise in the trade at Mundra Port with its links to various parts of the world. Its chief export was cotton piece goods. As time passed by and the port flourished, it began to have its own trading system for purchase and sale. The credit system, done through ‘hundi’3and designed at Mundra, promoted marine insurance schemes and enabled financial exchange. By the late nineteenth century, the port faced immense competition from foreign goods and the introduction of hinterland railways declined the activities at the Mundra port. The port went through a makeover when the Gujarat Maritime Board approved the setting of the Mundra Port in 1994 following which the Gujarat Adani Port Ltd was formed. By 2001, the port was integrated with the Indian Railways linking it to the hinterland. In 2003, the port was designated as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) making it the largest private SEZ in the country4. The Gujarat Adani Port Ltd was merged into Mundra Special Economic Zone Ltd. and Adani Chemicals Limited in 20065. It is known to be an all-weather port: it is busy across all seasons.

Today, the Mundra Port is spread across around 13500 hectares6 with world class amenities and infrastructural upgrades. With activities dealing with crude oil, liquid cargo and bulk handling among many and modernised machinery and connectivity, the Mundra Port is known for its minimal turnaround time and fastest cargo evacuation7. It is rightly the largest container port in the country.


References

  1. Manoj, P. (2020, Jul 6). Mundra overtakes JNPT to emerge largest container port by volumes, retrieved from Hindustan Times dated 06 Jul 2020, Mumbai
  2. Goswami, C. (n.d.). Mundra – A tale of a walled port town. In E. b. Keller, Port Towns of Gujarat(pp. 93-110)
  3. Goswami, C. (n.d.). Mundra – A tale of a walled port town. In E. b. Keller, Port Towns of Gujarat(pp. 93-110)
  4. Trivedi, J. H. (2010). A comparative study on financial performance of the Mundra port and the Kandla port.Krantiguru Shyamji Krishna Verma Kachchh University
  5. Port of Mundra. (n.d.). Retrieved from World Port Source: http://www.worldportsource.com/ports/review/IND_Port_of_Mundra_1652.php
  6. Important Ports of India: Mundra Port, Gujarat. (n.d.). Retrieved from marineinsight: https://www.marineinsight.com/ports/important-ports-of-india-mundra-port-gujarat/
  7. Ports and Terminals. (n.d.). Retrieved from adaniports:
    https://www.adaniports.com/Ports-and-Terminals/Mundra-Port

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