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‘Ministry of Shipping upgrading India’s port capabilities’

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The Ministry of Shipping, entrusted with the responsibility to formulate policies and programmes on shipping and ports sectors and their implementation, is presently focussing under Sagarmala programme on four main areas – Port Connectivity, Port Modernisation, Port-led Industrialisation and Development of the Communities along the ports, says Kailash K Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, Government of India in conversation with Gautam Debroy of Elets News Network (ENN).

Of late, the Ministry of Shipping has been undertaking a lot of initiatives for its development in Port Sector. Please share about some of them.

The Ministry of Shipping under sagarmala programme has undertaken a study for Port-led development to reduce logistic costs which are high in India compared to other countries. Taking cognizance of the developments in other countries and based on this comprehensive study, four focused areas have been identified wherein Ministry of Shipping has decided to put in the efforts. These four areas are port connectivity, port modernisation, port-led industrialisation and development of the communities along the ports. Based on these themes, about 550 projects have already been identified, in consultation with ports, State Governments, Line Ministries and Industry.

Sagarmala Project is basically an initiative to develop logistics sector performance and connectivity between ports, rail and road. Can you shed some light on it?

We are firstly identifying the key areas as per the Sagarmala Project. Secondly, we are talking to various stakeholders to ensure these projects come up and thirdly, monitoring of these projects and trying to remove the hindrances in the implementation of these projects. This will lead to reduction of the logistics costs that will improve the productivity. Recently, Ministry has changed some policies leading to relaxation of cabotage and the initial response is very good. The key focus is to make sure that we are as competitive as the advanced countries of the world in port led development. There is a huge skill gap in the Port and Marine sector.

What steps have been taken in this regard by the Ministry of Shipping?

To fill the gaps of skilling, Ministry is working in convergence with Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDUGKY) of the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India. We have identified about 60 modules where specialised training in Maritime Sector has been decided to be implemented in convergence with DDUGKY. Secondly, a centre of excellence by the name of CEMS (Centre of Excellence for Marine Studies) to impart training in ship building and ship design sector has been developed and two such centres are coming up at vizag and Mumbai. CEMS entails, investment of about Rs 800 crore and not only Indian students but students from neighbouring foreign countries are also likely to come and avail these opportunities. A centre at IIT Chennai has come up where studies and research on port related and inland water issues have been taken up to reduce dependence on foreign consultants and develop competency within India. Safety training for all the workers at Alang Ship Yard, which is one of the world’s biggest ship-breaking yard is being ensured. Apart from that, for the development of port community, the Ministry of Shipping is funding the fishing harbours.

What key steps have you undertaken to improvise the logistics sector’s performance?

We are focusing on ease-of-doing-business (EoDB). More than 24 areas have been identified for EoDB. The important parameters at a port for judging performance is the turnaround time (time taken by ship from time of entry to time of exit) and dwell time. For this purpose, paper work is being eliminated through IT tools along with scanning of cargo which prevents the physical examination, and setting up of testing laboratories in the port area. All these steps are taken to ensure logistics at the port area are sufficient enough so that people do not have to run to various agencies. Another focus area is development of Multi Modal Logistics Parks (MMLP). To reduce the customers’ botherations, the ports are moving to hinterland to capture the cargo. Jawaharlal Nehru, Port Trust (JNPT) has taken lead and it is developing four Inland Container Depots (ICD) at Jalna, Wardha, Sangli and Nashik with the purpose to fetch the cargo near the origin point. It will reduce the logistics cost. Ports are also developing surplus land for the purpose of setting up industries in port area. The aim is that the units set up will be very near to port which will save logistics costs. Surplus land of ports will be used for generating revenue as well as industrial development.

The Government is soon going to disburse 194 projects worth Rs 72,000 crore, which of the sectors or components are expected to receive this fund ?

Focus is on Port modernisation, capacity enhancement of ports and connectivity to ports. The projects which are to be awarded are the related to these areas. The focus is also on mechanisation of ports, addition of new berths at ports, enhancing drafts at ports keeping the aspect of handling bigger ships at ports. Also there is emphasis on Coastal berths. In the perspective plan, it is revealed that the cost of logistics by rail is much higher compared to transport by water. So, the target is to increase the percentage of goods being transferred by water from 6 to 12 per cent. There is need to promote coastal shipping and for that, the Ministry of Shipping is partly funding the creation of new coastal berths. Currently, we are moving about 100 million tonnes of coastal cargo from one port to another in India. The emphasis is of sagarmala programme to enhance coastal cargo substantially.

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