As a green metal, stainless steel is nearly 100 per cent recyclable and helps reduce carbon footprint, providing long-lasting infrastructure. Besides strength and sustainability, stainless steel also adds aesthetic value to global airports like Suvarnabhumi Bangkok International, Ronald Reagan Washington National and Doha International. KK Pahuja, President, Indian Stainless Steel Development Association (ISSDA) in an interaction with Karan Rawat of ACE Update, explains how the metal’s inherent unique properties have catalysed operations in such high-frequency transit building systems.
How do you see the overall demand for stainless steel in India?
With an annual demand growth rate of 9 per cent in India and 5 per cent globally, stainless steel is the fastest growing metal. Robust growth in the per capita consumption of stainless steel in India is likely, which is currently at 2kg as against world average of 6kg. Major demand drivers for stainless steel in the country are ART (automobile, railways and transport), ABC (architecture, buildings and construction), kitchenware and consumer goods, and the process industry sectors. Indian Railways is a dedicated consumer of stainless steel steering from railway coaches, wagons and upcoming modern railway infrastructure. The metal has gained traction in architectural and construction applications, both of which augment GDP growth, since it is corrosion resistant and adds aesthetic value.
Which grade of stainless steel is the most appropriate for airport construction and why?
For any application, stainless steel grade selection depends on the environment’s corrosion intensity, along with the strength and degree of formability required. A variety of stainless steel grades like 304, 316, 201, 202, 430, etc., are suitable for airport construction. In non-coastal cities, 304 grade is the preferred choice because of its excellent resistance to corrosion, along with increased weldability. However, due to an increased rate of corrosion in coastal cities given the marine environment, the improved 316 grade is preferred for exterior applications, while 304 grade for interiors. Along with this, a good surface finish is required to resist chloride pitting corrosion in these areas.
What are the applications in which stainless steel can be used in an airport?
Some of the major applications are airport roofs, entrance canopies, ticket counters, staircases, planters, signage, security barriers, bollards, baggage carousels, escalators, elevators, terminal building furniture, façade, claddings, kiosks, telephone booths, etc.
Discuss the major concerns gnawing at stainless steel industry in India?
As the second largest consumer of stainless steel, India is threatened by a glut of imports from Free Trade Agreement nations such as Japan, Korea and ASEAN countries. Given the zero duty on imports of all stainless steel flat products in India from ASEAN countries, they have been rising dramatically, causing a huge trade deficit. Moreover, imposition of trade remedial measures like Anti-Dumping Duty and Countervailing Duty on import of these products from China has led to trade diversion, thereby being virtually ineffective. Imports from Indonesia have grown by over ten times, primarily due to trade diversion of Chinese-origin goods and growing Chinese investments in Indonesia. Inclusion of stainless steel products in Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is another threat to the domestic industry that will result in a fatal up-rise in duty-free Chinese imports.
Also, the existing 2.5 per cent import duty on key raw materials like stainless steel scrap, steel scrap, and ferronickel, along with a lower Basic Customs Duty (BCD) of 7.5 per cent renders the domestic industry non-competitive. The government must abolish this import duty on raw materials as they constitute nearly 50 per cent of the cost of production. Moreover, increasing the BCD on finished stainless steel goods to 12.5 per cent will check unwarranted imports in the country.
How can stainless steel help Indian infrastructure industry meet global standards?
The range of Indian stainless steel standards has been formulated by Bureau of Indian Standards for mandatory certification of stainless steel products. All product standards have been benchmarked with international standards. This ensures supply of high-quality stainless steel in the market. Indian players, like Jindal Stainless and SAIL, have been supplying stainless steel for critical applications like nuclear reactors. Players like Jindal Stainless have also been supplying to high-quality conscious markets like Germany. This is testimony to the quality of manufacturing in the Indian stainless steel industry. Moreover, ISSDA is making consistent efforts to enhance stainless steel applications in various new segments like fisheries, pipes and tubes, bus bodies, e-rickshaws, food and beverage segment, railway infrastructure, etc. All of these initiatives will raise the Indian infrastructure standards to be at par with those observed globally.
For any application, stainless steel grade selection depends on the environment’s corrosion intensity, along with the strength and degree of formability required.
KK Pahuja, President, ISSDA