Getting the wheels back in motion

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has a tell-tale effect on the industries in Visakhapatnam, the main commercial hub of Andhra Pradesh. After partial relaxation of norms, many units have resumed operations but have scaled down production.

As it is, most of the industries barring the pharma sector were hit hard during 2019-20 due to economic slowdown and prolonged market sluggishness impacting their output. Now due to the pandemic, it is expected to take at least six months to attain normalcy and a year to bounce back if everything goes well, including the development of a vaccine.

The Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited, the corporate entity of the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, expects to scale up the production ‘in a short span of time’ as soon as the market resumes operation, which it feels could happen only when the downstream core sectors like automobile, construction and manufacturing start picking up.

RINL, being a critical continuous process unit, is operating at a lower scale in a safe environment with deployment of optimal manpower within the sanctioned limit of local administration, a senior official told. It is managing with a workforce of 14,000, including regular and contractual manpower, almost one-third of the normal strength with a similar reduction in its production capacity. Only one of its three blast furnaces are operational with average daily production of 7,000 tonne hot metal.

Better than national average

The Visakhapatnam Port Trust, the lifeline of the city which finished third in the country by handling 72.72 million tonne during the last fiscal, admits that during the current fiscal it has experienced a 12% fall in cargo in April compared to last year due to the lockdown.

VPT Deputy Chairman P.L. Haranadh says exports dropped by 19% whereas imports increased by 17%. Export of food grains, chillies and aluminium fine by containers is seeing a good growth partly due to shipment of nearly 4,000 containers to Nepal. Their performance was better considering the 21%average drop in traffic in major ports, he adds.

HPCL Visakh Refinery is ensuring normal operations. The refinery has an annual capacity of 8.33 million tonne. Being a process plant supplying essentials, the lockdown has no impact on the operations, says an official. However, the 15-million tonne expansion project works are likely to be delayed.

Production nosedives

The Jawaharlal Nehru Pharma City, which is operating by deploying one-third of its 32,000-strong workforce at various units, is witnessing a fall in production by an estimated 30 to 40%. “We are expecting to grow in future over our last year’s turnover of about ₹20,000 crore,” says JNPC CEO P.P. Lal Krishna.

Other major units like the Hindustan Shipyard Ltd, Heavy Plates and Vessels Plant of BHEL, Coromandel Fertilizers and the Dredging Corporation of India Ltd are also putting up a brave performance despite the challenges thrown up by the pandemic.