South Asian ports must improve interrelated efficiency: World Bank

Updated: 00:00 GMT, Jan 1, 1970 | Published: 12:23 GMT, May 16, 2017 |

South Asia could grab a bigger share of international trade, but inefficiencies in its ports threaten to hinder progress and stop it from matching other regions like East Asia, a new World Bank report shows.

The report recommended South Asian countries, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, to build greater private sector participation, improve governance of port authorities and create more competition within and between ports.

“Experience from across the globe, including the South Asian experience, indicates that a comprehensive approach that tackles several interrelated angles yields greater benefits than isolated improvements,” said Karla Gonzalez Carvajal, South Asia Manager, Transport and ICT Global Practice at the World Bank.

While some South Asian countries took great strides to improve performance at container ports amid a worldwide boom in sea-borne trade, the region as a whole has lagged and its ports are seen as expensive and slow, the report said.

“Specifically Colombo in Sri Lanka, the fast-expanding Mundra and Jawaharlal Nehru Port in India and Port Qasim in Pakistan – improved the use of their facilities in the decade after 2000,” said the report, Competitiveness of South Asia’s Container Ports – a Comprehensive Assessment of Performance, Drivers and Costs.

“While India’s Mumbai and Tuticorin fell behind. Chittagong (Bangladesh) and Kolkata (India) had the longest vessel turnaround times in the region.”

The study of the status, structure and deficiencies of the region’s container ports found that if ports in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan had been as efficient as those of Sri Lanka it could have cut shipping costs by up to nearly 9 percent, boosting the value of the region’s exports by up to 7 percent.

As China is shifting out of labor-intensive sectors such as apparel, South Asia has the potential to capture a growing share of the global market.