Chennai: Policy initiatives like cargo reservation for inland waterways and minor ports, reservation of coastal cargo for Indian ships with a policy on cabotage, integration of smaller ports with inland water ways , allowing major ports to connect with minor ports that in turn would connect the inland water ways, will promote coastal shipping and inland water transport in the country in a big way, according to H.E Mr Shekhar Dutt, Governor of Chhattisgarh, who had played key roles in Defence and Shipping Ministries and shipping industry earlier .
Addressing a conference on `Coastal Shipping, Inland waterways and Surveillance’, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Mr Dutt said India has six per cent of the world’s seafarers with 30,000 officers and 60,000 ratings. ``There is no dearth of human skills or motivation. The need is to move forward towards full exploitation of container shipping that allows major ports to connect with minor ports which in turn will connect the inland water ways’’.
Of the 14,500 kms of navigable waterways in India, 5700 km of rivers and canals were navigable by motorized crafts, he said. ``The cost of development of inland waterways has been estimated to be a mere 5-10% of the cost of developing an equivalent four-lane highway or similar railway. In terms of maintenance cost, inland water ways is placed at 20% of that of roads. One litre of fuel can move 24 tonne- Km of freight by road, 85 by rail and 105 by inland water ways’’, the Governor said.
These waterways could be made cost-effective and economic highways of transport by creating permanent terminals and adequate infrastructure for loading, storage and other such requisites for any long distance haulage, he said. Inadequate navigable depth in stretches of the waterways, excessive siltation and shortage of hightechnology vessels and sophisticated navigation aids were some of the problems to be addressed, the Governor said.
Vice Admiral (Retd) Pradeep Kaushiva, UYSM, VSM, Director, National Maritime Foundation (NMF), said Inland water transport was economic, fuel efficient and environment-friendly. The extensive network of rivers and canals, if developed for shipping and navigation, could provide an efficient network of trade and mass transportation, he said and added that still the change- over to coastal shipping from the road and rail transportation has not taken place. Cumbersome customs procedures, non-availability of tax benefits given to ocean-going ships to coastal shipping and want of infrastructure facilities in major ports were the reasons for this, he said
Mr B Santhanam, Deputy Chairman, CII (Southern Region) and Managing Director, Saint Gobain Glass India Ltd, said nearly 90% of India’s international trade by volume and 77% by value was carried by sea. Only 10% of this one billion tonne cargo movement was done by coastal shipping.
The use of inland water transportation at present was insignificant, except to an extent in Kerala, Only 0.1% of the total trade was by inland waterways. For increased use of the inland water ways it was important to use the potential of the minor ports, Mr Santhanam said. Cargo growth in minor ports in India has recorded a robust 9% growth in 2010-11, he added.
There was huge potential for maritime tourism and water sports also, he said.
Dr C Sylendra Babu, Additional DGP, Coastal Security, Tamil Nadu, said, the Coastal Security Group of Tamil Nadu was a very specialized agency and the State had recognized the importance of coastal security much earlier than the Mumbai attack. It has a well-established security system to safeguard its long coastline and territorial waters. He said 12 marine police stations were in operation and 13 more were sanctioned. The police stations have well-equipped state of the art patrol boats and they take care of the sea and shores, he said.
Mr B Sridhar, Co-Chairman, CII National Committee on Shipping and Director, Bengal Tiger-Line India (Pvt) Ltd said Coastal shipping needs regulatory, fiscal and logistics-related support for the industry to flourish.
On the logistics front, he said there could be separate zones in the port area for the domestic movement of cargo, like the domestic terminal in airports, with little formalities of customs, immigration and others. Twining of neighboring ports like Kolkata and Haldia, Chennai and Ennore for coastal transportation of cargo between them could also be a beginning, he added.