Concerned over lack of berthing facilities at ports forcing ships in India to spend 70 percent time waiting and only 30 percent in voyage, the government is planning to set up low-cost non-major ports along coastline under the Sagarmala project.
To boost coastal shipping, it has asked all the 12 major ports to accord priority berthing to such vessels and facilitate faster movement of cargo, as a short-term measure.
“Waiting time at ports in India is significant and hampers the efficiency of vessel operations. It is estimated that coastal vessels in India spend about 70 percent of total time in ports and only 30 percent of their time in actual voyage. Such delays render coastal shipping uncompetitive,” Ministry of Shipping said in a document.
Asking all 12 major ports to accord priority berthing to coastal vessels to enable shippers to transport goods from one port in India to another port irrespective of origin and final destination of the cargo, it said it has also drawn a long-term action plan to address the issue.
“Development of low-cost non-major ports along the coastline outside customs notified areas to cater to coastal traffic exclusively would be encouraged under the Sagarmala project, through the respective state/maritime boards, as has been done in the UK and Japan,” it said.
Sagarmala is a priority project of the Narendra Modi government designed for port-led economic development, for which the government had given nod in March.
As a step towards comprehensive and integrated planning for Sagarmala, the government will put in place a national perspective plan for the coastline to identify potential geographical regions to be called Coastal Economic Zones.
For implementation of projects in the initial phase of Sagarmala in 2015-16 it has earmarked Rs 692 crore. The 12 major ports in India — Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Mormugao, New Managlore, Cochin, Chennai, Ennore, V O Chidambaranar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) — handle approximately 61 percent of cargo traffic.
The government has also undertaken a slew of steps to promote coastal shipping including measures to tap global environment fund for creating additional capacities in the sector.
At present India occupies 17th slot in global shipping capacity in EXIM trade. Measures are on to enhance it as the Ministry plans to boost coastal shipping four-fold by 2020. India has a coastline of over 7,000 km, yet coastal shipping in the country is still in its infancy with a fleet of about 700 ships accounting for just about 10 percent of the total tonnage.
India’s EXIM cargo in terms of volume is approximately 611 million tonnes (MT) valued at about USD 279 billion.