Major Ports in India for Importing Shipments


Major Ports in India, India’s geographical location gives it access to key maritime trade routes, which has led to the development of several major seaports that serve as vital gateways for cross-border trade. These ports handle large volumes of import cargo arriving into the country from overseas origins. As an importer, choosing the right port of entry that aligns with your import destination can save significant time and cost in your supply chain. This article provides an overview of some of the main ports handling import shipments and the inland container depots that supplement them across major cities in India.

Chennai Port: Gateway to Southern India

Chennai Port, located on the southeastern coast of India in Tamil Nadu, is one of the country’s largest ports. It handles a wide variety of cargo including containers, automobiles, petroleum products, coal and other bulk commodities. Chennai port witnessed container volumes of over 1.5 million TEUs (Twenty Foot Equivalent Units), making it a crucial import gateway. Its proximity to manufacturing hubs as well as consumption centers in southern India provides a locational advantage. Importers in major cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Coimbatore depend on Chennai for import shipments.

To supplement Chennai’s capabilities, an Inland Container Depot (ICD) was set up in Bangalore, which is one of India’s main commercial centers. The Bangalore ICD helps decongest the Chennai port by enabling direct clearance of import containers to their destination. This reduces overall transit time and logistics costs.

Mumbai Port: Largest Container Gateway

Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT) near Mumbai handles over half of India’s container cargo volume. In 2021, JNPT handled traffic of over 7 million TEUs making it the nation’s busiest container port. Its strategic location helps serve India’s leading manufacturing industries and consumption zones in the western region. Key import commodities handled include machinery, electronics, automobile components, textiles, and apparel.

Many north Indian cities also depend on JNPT for import shipments which get transported via rail and road. To aid this, a major Inland Container Depot was developed near Delhi to help decongest Mumbai port. Import containers are moved to Delhi ICD from JNPT for destination delivery.

Read: Goods You Can Ship Duty-Free to India

Kolkata Port: Eastern Gateway

Kolkata Port located along the Hooghly river in West Bengal serves as a key gateway port for eastern India. It handles a wide variety of import cargo including iron ore, steel, machinery, wood, rubber, automobiles, and containers. The port witnessed a container volume of around 0.6 million TEUs in 2021. Kolkata’s proximity to cities like Patna, Guwahati, and Bhubaneshwar makes it an important import point catering to the eastern region.

An ICD near Kolkata supplements the port’s capabilities and enables direct port clearance of import cargo to the final destination.

Cochin Port: Strategic Location

Cochin Port in the state of Kerala handles over 25 million metric tonnes annually across container, bulk, and liquid cargo segments. It has strategic advantages due to its proximity to international sea routes. Key import commodities handled include petroleum, oil, lubricants, LPG, wood, metals, spices, furniture, and machinery parts.

The commissioning of an ICD near Cochin provides direct port clearance of import containers and cargo to destinations in Kerala as well as neighboring regions. This reduces logistics costs for importers in southwestern India.

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Vizag Port: Andhra’s Gateway

Visakhapatnam or Vizag Port located in Andhra Pradesh is a major seaport on India’s eastern coast. It caters to the central and north eastern regions of the country. Vizag Port handles diverse cargo such as containers, crude oil, iron ore, fertilizers, steel products, and coal among others. Its container volumes crossed 0.5 million TEUs.

Vizag’s deep inner harbor provides an advantage in berthing larger vessels. Importers can use Vizag as an alternative gateway besides Kolkata and Chennai ports for the eastern belt.

Choosing the Right Port of Entry

When importing goods into India, assessing the right port of entry involves evaluating connectivity, costs, Processes, and proximity to the final destination. Hiring an experienced customs broker can help smoothen the clearance process. As India aims to become a $5 Trillion economy by 2025, its major ports will continue playing a pivotal role in enabling hassle-free global trade.

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