As the Government of India has undertaken various developmental initiatives, the connectivity related issues of Ports in India be it Road, Rail, Aviation and Waterways have been undertaken under the Sagarmala Perspective plan. The expected investment under the Sagarmala will be more than Rs 12 lakh crore, says Parmeshwar Bali, Chartering Officer (Ports), Ministry of Shipping, Government of India, in conversation with Gautam Debroy of Elets News Network (ENN).
What have been some of the most prominent initiatives of the Ministry of Shipping in the recent times towards ensuring an improvised ports connectivity?
We have taken a lot of initiatives. We have increased the mechanised systems at the ports and have removed old forms, etc. We have also put different types of scanners at the ports like mobile scanner, etc. Now, full rack of railways can go through these scanners. We have put Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tag on the containers and travellers which would automatically go through the gates. Also, there will be no restrictions put up at the gate. We describe it as the automatic gate entry system. Besides, we have undertaken a number of initiatives to improve the turnaround time also. Now, it does not take more than 70-75 hours. Earlier, it used to take three to four days.
Kindly shed some light on the terminology ‘turnaround time’.
Turnaround time is the time taken by a ship to unload and load the cargo when it touches a port. The ship unloads the cargo and returns to the sea, carrying new materials or cargo with it. This is described as the turnaround time. The Government of India seems to have introduced a lot of developmental initiatives. Is there any plan commenced under the Sagarmala Project as well? The connectivity issue of the East and the West side of the ports is taken care of by the Sagarmala Project. There has been a realisation of Rs 12 lakh crore investment in this. We are building new roads, new railway lines, new waterways, new ports, berths, jetties, etc. There will be direct port to port connectivity.
Are you laying any special emphasis on the coastal areas?
Some States have 500-700 long coastlines. Over this coastline, there are 12 major ports which contribute to the existing 70 percent of the existing trade, i e around 700 million tonnes. There are 208 smaller ports that are under the State Governments. The Government is also planning a coastal service linking one port to another port.
How do you perceive the significance of private players’ role in this?
We have a policy to encourage private players in this sector. Under the Public-Private Partnership model, they can also build ports.
What are the major challenges in this sector?
There are a lot of problems like competition from other ports, labour problem, etc.
How do you foresee the progress of this sector five years down the line?
We are focusing on improving the port capacity. Currently, it is 1,800 million tonnes. We are trying to take this to 2,500 million tonnes and the cargo capacity, which is currently 1,250 million tonnes, will be improved to 1,800 million tonnes.