Mangalore: India's Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari seems to follow other ministers in rushing through his agenda of development as a slew of issues confront him on the ports domain.
India, which has 12 major ports and 20 minor ones, needs to tackle issues like tariff reforms, restructuring the 12 government-owned ports into corporate entities from a trustee set-up, development of coastal shipping and inland water transport, road linkages to ports, and allowing Indian fleet owners to register their ships overseas.
A big demand for robust port infrastructure, strong growth potential, favourable investment climate, business-friendly regulatory environment, and incentives provided by the federal governments provide private players immense opportunities to foray into the port sector.
The BJP manifesto said, "We will evolve an economic model of port-led development. India is blessed with a long coastline. We will modernise existing ports on one hand, and develop new ones on the other — stringing together our Sagar Mala (ocean necklace) project. Public-private partnership would be encouraged to tap into private sector resources as well as expertise. An institutional framework would be established for the same; while regulators would be given greater autonomy as well as accountability."
India's big ports account for about 60 per cent of the total cargo shipped through the country's ports.
The Indian government had initiated the National Maritime Development Programme to develop the maritime sector for the administration, and has projected an outlay of $11.8billion.
The UPA government had also permitted foreign direct investment (FDI) of up to 100 per cent under the automatic route for projects related to the construction and maintenance of ports and harbours, and a 10-year tax holiday for enterprises engaged in ports. Whether Gadkari pursues this or he has his own plans, remains to be seen.
It is reported that Belgium has shown an interest in developing a new port near Kolkata. The Mangalore port is initiating efforts to expand in order to make it the most sought after gateway for trade in Karnataka.
According to P C Parida, chairman of The New Mangalore Port Trust, "The Trust intends to increase the draught of the port, from the present 14m to 18m so as to handle larger vessels, particularly petroleum and oil products." The Mangalore port handles 75 per cent of India's coffee exports and the bulk of its cashew yield.
The government-owned Paradip port is also planning to set up six captive berths of more than 10 million tonnes per annum (TPA) capacity each as part of the development of a Western Dock complex.
Considering a PPP model, the Paradip Port Trust (PPT) has estimated a total investment of Rs6,500 crore for the development of the Western Dock. The Visakhapatnam Port has handled highest iron ore among all the 12 major ports in the country during 2013-14.
India's 12 major ports include Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Ennore, V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) which handle approximately 61 per cent of the country's total cargo traffic, besides about 200 non-major ports in control of states.