Towards Holistic Development of Port Sector: Raj Gopal

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Raj Gopal, Principal Secretary, Ports & Transport Department, Government of Gujarat

A holistic development of the port sector is a fundamental need for emerging ports, and Gujarat is well on its way to achieve that, says Raj Gopal, Principal Secretary, Ports & Transport Department, Government of Gujarat, in an interview with Nirav Soni of Elets News Network (ENN)

What initiatives have been taken by the Government of Gujarat for development of port sector in the State?

Developing a sector like port is a long-term process. The Government has taken several initiatives to develop the port and maritime sector in the State. Gujarat was the first State to create an autonomous body in 1982 – the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB). It was formed under the GMB Act, 1981 for developing, operating and regulating non-major ports of the State. In 1987, Captive Jetty Policy was declared to allow private companies to operate their own jetties in GMB ports. Moving ahead, the Port Policy, in 1995, provided an integrated port development platform with public-private participation, synchronisation of small and large investors in port sector, and creation of market-driven port sector.

In 1997, the Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) Policy was provided for port locations. BOOT policy brought operational flexibility with tariff freedom, adequate compensation on project transfer, bankable project document and model concession agreement. To attract private players, GID Act in 1999 focussed on fair, transparent and clear-cut mechanism for selection of developers, through competitive bidding. Subsequently, the 2004 SEZ Act (Gujarat) paved the way for minor ports and related services in special economic zones in Gujarat, wherein developers would fix and collect tariff.

What are incentives or special packages provided by the Government of Gujarat to attract investment in the port sector?

We were the first maritime State to introduce a port policy and we are the pioneer in developing ports with private sector participation. Gujarat has formed several models of the private sector participation to suit the requirements of various stakeholders. The State has also developed bankable model concession agreement with a well-balanced risk sharing mechanism allowing mortgage of assets and rights that helped secure funding.

Our concession framework allowed giving ports considerably long-term concessions. Tariff setting freedom is probably another major benefit given under this model.

For the private and captive jetties also, the schedule of port charges are finalised by GMB after reviewing market conditions and consulting stakeholders. Gujarat also came up with the Shipbuilding Policy in 2010 and LNG Terminal Policy in 2012 to provide various incentives to these industries.

These port-specific incentives, along with stable policy framework and ease of doing business in Gujarat, have helped the growth of the maritime sector in the State over the last decade.

What security measures have been undertaken for smooth functioning of all ports?

The Government has taken various initiatives to secure its coast. One of these is the advanced VTMS system. In the Gulf of Kutch, it has been operational since 2008 whereas in the Gulf of Khambhat, it has been operational since 2010, and GMB is planning to extend the cover to the remaining coastal area from Okha to Jafrabad.

The Integrated Security Management System (ISMS) will handle security related sub-systems, such as the security management, useful in disaster management and environment management considering the requirement of International Standards of Port Security (ISPS) Code and IB guidelines related to Information Technology. The system would help in proactive identification of disaster/emergencies and help in an automated response mechanism. Hence, this system would also create a communication infrastructure, which is omnipresent in the nature with essential focus on video surveillance.

The project is planned to be implemented in two phases. In the first phase, the locations to be included are Navlakhi Port, Okha Port, Porbandar Port, Jamnagar Port, Surat Port and Gandhinagar Head Office. The system would include video surveillance, perimeter intrusion detection, incident / disaster response, central command & control and physical screening systems in long-run weather alerts, and information shall be integrated with ISMS to provide suitable real-time alerts to all the stakeholders.

What are the future plans of the Government to provide better services to its customers?

In the current scenario, modernisation is the need of the hour that will enable ports to be extremely competitive. In order to offer optimal combinations of time and cost, GMB is undertaking work of modernising and mechanising ports, like Magdalla and Bhavnagar in the initial phase. Also, modernisation of shipbreaking yard at Alang Sosiya recycling yard in cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is in the offing.

In order to offer optimal combinations of time and cost, GMB is undertaking work of modernising and mechanising ports like Magdalla and Bhavnagar in the initial phase

In order to address information needs emanating from within and outside, GMB has planned to introduce IPMS, which will be divided into three major modules. The three modules are Enterprise Resource Planning , Port Operations Management System and ISMS. The proposed system shall be a web-based system that will centralise the architecture across all GMB ports in Gujarat and will track port-level transactions. Once the system is in place, all the activities shall be carried out online, enabling smooth functioning and better services to customers.

The Gujarat Maritime Board has also planned a maritime university and commercial maritime cluster projects as next generation projects that would improve soft infrastructure in the maritime space. GMB will further standardise port operations processes and explore possibilities to cut short documentation by eliminating redundant and duplicate information, thereby ensuring ease of doing business in true sense.

What message would you like to give to the corporate world at large?

Holistic development of the port sector is a fundamental need for emerging ports. It comprises cargo-handling activities, total integrated logistics solutions and support industries. Gujarat is heading in the direction of holistic development of its ports with its path-breaking initiative towards devising an integrated maritime-cum-port policy. The idea is to integrate all the other developments / policies announced by the State and the Government of India, keeping in mind the global developments. Simultaneously, the State in its efforts to create a complete ecosystem of port/ shipping activities, would like to pursue maritime cluster, which will provide ample opportunities to the investors to help grow their business. With a backdrop of ‘Make in India’, I invite shipping companies to come and invest in Gujarat, as it has a great potential for shipbuilding yards and shipbreaking & recycling industry owing to its strategic location, superb infrastructure and ease of doing business.

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