New Delhi: Amid widening demand-supply gap and increased requirement of dry-fuel, the country's major ports saw 22 percent jump in imported thermal coal cargo at 71.60 million tonnes (MT) in 2013.
Handling of coking coal, which is used mainly for steel-making, witnessed an 18.26 percent increase, ranging from 18 to 33.12 million tonnes, according to the latest data by the Indian Ports Association (IPA).
These 12 major ports had handled 58.65 MT and 28 MT of thermal and coking coal, respectively in 2012-13.
Altogether, they handled 105 MT coal during the last fiscal, against 87 MT in 2012-13.
India has 12 major ports - Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Ennore, V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) which handle approximately 61 percent of the country's total cargo traffic.
Thermal coal is used in power generation and with the world's largest miner Coal India, which accounts for about 80 percent of the domestic requirement unable to meet the demand of the firms, the plants resorted to imports.
Imports have been increasing in the wake of Coal India not being able to enhance production on account of a variety of reasons, including delays in environment clearances and lack of rail infrastructure to transport the dry-fuel.
CIL has said it is unable to tap the potential for supplying 300 MT of additional coal due to the absence of critical rail links for lifting the dry-fuel.
"We have a potential to supply 300 MT of additional coal from some of our collieries but we lack crucial rail infrastructure for transporting it," CIL Chairman and Managing Director S Narsing Rao had recently said.
Less production coupled with increased demand from power firms is further widening the demand-supply gap in the country, which is likely to widen to 185.5 MT in 2016-17.
Coal India Ltd, which accounts for over 80 percent of domestic output of the fuel, produced 462 MT in the year ended March 31, 2014, against a target of 482 MT.
In 2012-13, Coal India produced 452.5 MT of coal, falling short of the 464 MT goal.
Coal India's production target for 2014-15 has been set at 507 million tonnes.
Coal is the mainstay of India's energy programme as 70 percent of power generation is dependent on the dry fuel.
Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal had recently said that India needs to be "more aggressive" to boost production.
India is the third-largest producer of coal, after China and the US, and has 299 billion tonnes of resources and 123 billion tonnes of proven reserves, which may last for over 100 years.