Union Minister highlights India’s Maritime development drive, from expansion to modernization

Union Minister for Ports, Shipping, and Waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal, recently highlighted the Indian Government’s concerted efforts towards expanding and modernizing the Marine Sector in the country. In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, he emphasized that the continuous development of the maritime sector, encompassing various measures such as constructing new berths and terminals, mechanizing existing ones, undertaking capital dredging to accommodate larger vessels, and improving road and rail connectivity to enhance the capacity of major ports, have proven successful in bolstering the cargo handling capacity of the Major Ports.

This has resulted in a steady increase in their installed capacity, which currently stands at 1,617 MTPA as of March 31, 2023. This capacity is deemed sufficient to handle the existing cargo traffic at these ports effectively.

Furthermore, the government has taken significant strides to enhance the standards of maritime training, examination, and certification systems. Progressive steps have been implemented to augment on-board training opportunities and welfare measures for seafarers, leading to a record number of 2,82,918 Indian seafarers employed on both Indian and foreign flagged vessels in the current calendar year.

The promotion of Shipbuilding and Indian flagging of vessels has also been a priority for the Indian Government. The Ship Building Financial Assistance Policy (2016-2026) has been initiated to provide financial support to Indian shipyards. Under this policy, a financial assistance of 20% of the contract price or actual receipts or fair price (whichever is least) is granted to Indian shipyards, with a gradual reduction of 3% every three years.

The criteria for granting the Right of First Refusal (RoFR) in the chartering of vessels through the tender process have also been revised to prioritize Indian built and Indian flag vessels. This move aims to bolster tonnage under the Indian flag and promote shipbuilding within the country, fostering self-reliance in terms of tonnage and shipbuilding.

Additionally, the Indian Government has launched a subsidy scheme to encourage the flagging of merchant ships in India. With an allocation of Rs. 1624 crore over five years, this scheme supports Indian shipping companies participating in global tenders floated by Ministries and Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs). The subsidy rate is based on the vessel’s age, fostering incentives for entrepreneurs to register ships under the Indian flag.

Overall, these strategic policies and initiatives demonstrate the Government of India’s commitment to the growth and modernization of the Marine Sector, fostering economic development and enhancing India’s standing in the global maritime industry.

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