Five weeks after Cyclone Fani made landfall on India’s east coast in early May, another storm has been approaching the country’s west coast, disrupting port, airport, and rail operations in northwestern India, since June 12. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, Cyclone Vayu is moving towards Gujarat state and may make landfall early next week as a tropical depression. Northwestern India, a hub for industrial clusters ranging from automotive and engineering to chemicals and healthcare, rarely experiences disruption from tropical storms. No major cyclone has made landfall in the area in 20 years.
Container gateways shut down as factories brace for impact
The state of Gujarat is home to two container gateways, both of which have suspended operations for consecutive days. The Port of Mundra, India’s largest privately-operated port, shut down port and vessel operations on June 12 while the Port of Pipavav, mainly operated by Maersk subsidiary APM Terminals Pipavav, pre-emptively closed its gates and cleared its berths on June 11. According to a customer advisory on June 14, gate operations at both ports have resumed while vessels are still prohibited from entering the port areas due to persistent adverse weather. Normal landside and shipside operations are not expected to resume before June 15. According to Resilience360’s database of suppliers, Gujarat houses companies in the automotive, engineering, chemical, and health care sectors, particularly near the city of Ahmedabad. Many of these sectors use the ports of Mundra and Pipavav as main ports of entry and exit in the region. Depending on the intensity of the storm upon its landfall, companies in coastal areas and the immediate hinterland may also experience production issues due to strong winds, heavy rainfall, flooding, and power outages.
Strong winds, rainfall to also affect air and ground operations across Gujarat
As the storm nears the coastline, significant disruption has also been reported in air and rail transport services. On June 13, seven regional airports shut down operations for at least 24 hours in anticipation of Cyclone Vayu. Among the affected airports were Diu Airport, Porbandar Airport, Bhavnagar Airport, Kandla Airport, Keshod Airport, Jamnagar Airport, and Bhuj Airport. Even though five of these airports are expected to reopen throughout June 14, residual flight delays may persist until winds and heavy rains subside.
Railway services in the coastal areas of Saurashtra have also been cancelled since June 12 and there are currently no reports confirming that the railway tracks will reopen soon. Rail services from and to APM Terminals Pipavav, which connect to the inland container depot in Kanpur in north-central India, resumed at 11:00 local time on June 14 after having been suspended for 48 hours, cutting off a recently launched intermodal connection that is primarily used by chemicals customers to transport hazardous goods.
Outlook and recommendations
Cyclone Vayu is currently forecast to make landfall in Gujarat state over the next few days, possibly on June 18. However, as the path and intensity of tropical storms are difficult to predict, customers should keep abreast of the latest developments and adjust contingency plans for logistics or manufacturing operations accordingly. In light of the disruption caused by Cyclone Fani earlier in the year, customers should expect longer shipping times in the coming weeks as the multiday port closures are likely to cause both berth and yard congestion, which will slow down productivity even after operations fully resume.