The ongoing acute global shortage of containers along with a push from the government for more self-dependence in the sector has led some of India’s top steelmakers and a few wagon manufacturers to expand into indigenous manufacturing of containers for global sea trade, almost all of which now is imported.
But capturing the market would be tough, given Indian shippers’ miniscule presence in world trade coupled with China’s global stronghold in the container-making segment.
Executives at Jindal Steel & Power (JSPL) and ArcelorMittal Nippon said that they were investing in building capabilities for either the specialised steel that goes into making containers or the containers themselves.
“We are seriously looking at manufacturing containers. There is a facility outside our Hazira unit, which can also be utilised for this,” ArcelorMittal India’s chief marketing officer,
Ranjan Dhar, said.
India has the raw material and technologies to manufacture containers, but the government also needs to incentivise this in order to encourage more players to get in, he said. JSPL has plans to construct around 50,000 containers a year.
The company would expand facilities which currently have capabilities to make 1,000-2,000 containers a month, managing director VR Sharma told ET. It would invest Rs.200 crore in the expansion.
JSPL manufacturers’ special steel which is corrosion-resistant and can be used to manufacture containers. Tata Steel said it has been getting queries from its customers to supply steel for making containers.
“This segment was largely dependent on import and there is a certain shift under the ‘Make in India’ programme,” stated a Tata spokesperson.
Tata steel said many wagon builders were planning to enter container manufacturing and looking to partner with firms that manufacture containers.
“Interest in container manufacturing has witnessed a dramatic rebound on the back of the global imbalance leading to a severe shortage of empty containers,” stated Prahlad Tanwar, partner at KPMG. The push for indigenous containers comes among their global shortage that started and progressively worsened during the pandemic. The shortage coupled with the fact that clusters of containers are stuck at many ports has increased their prices by 5-7 times in the previous few months.
Past this year, state-run Container Corp of India, for the first time, floated a tender for Indian companies to make 6,000 containers for it. Braithwait and BHEL were two firms that qualified.