The Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping, Nitin Gadkari, talks to The Sunday Guardian about the role of shipping ports in the Indian economy and the future of shipping in the country. The minister believes that government initiatives to develop and modernise new and existing ports will contribute immensely to the economy and create employment.
India will host the first ever Global Maritime Summit in Mumbai from 14 to 16 April. The summit is expected to attract more than 2,000 participants, including senior government officials and policy makers, CEOs of Indian and global maritime industry et cetera from across the world.
Q: Shipping is not just the ferrying of goods and passengers. It’s also about the growth of the nation as it promotes trade. Can you elaborate on this?
A: Shipping is definitely not just limited to ferrying of goods and passengers. India, through its 7,500 long coastline and the advantage of its strategic location on the East-West international trade route, is reaching out to the world in trade and commerce. Our 12 major ports and around 200 non-major ports account for 95% of India’s EXIM trade by volume and 70% by value and this number will only grow with the coming up of new ports and the modernisation of our existing ports. Also, we are emphasising a lot on the usage of coastal shipping, inland waterways and better connectivity to ports to bring down our logistics cost.
Q: We have heard a lot about the Sagarmala initiative. Can you give us some details about this initiative?
A: Considering the importance of maritime trade to India’s economy, the government of India has embarked on the ambitious Sagarmala programme for port-led development. The Sagarmala programme is a flagship programme of the government. This port-led development programme is based on four pillars — port modernisation, port connectivity, port-led industrialisation and coastal community development.
Under Sagarmala, 104 initiatives have been identified to increase the efficiency of our 12 major ports. 50 projects have also been proposed to increase the capacity of these ports. All these initiatives will double India’s port capacity from the present 1.5 billion tonnes to 3 billion tonnes by 2025.
To increase connectivity, over 80 connectivity projects have been identified with the ambition of creating 10,000 km of new road and rail infrastructure. 14 CEZs (coastal economic zones) have been identified to develop port-based industrial and manufacturing clusters. This will also strengthen and reinforce the Make in India initiative of the government.
Kandla and Paradip have also been considered for the development of Smart Port Industrial Cities. The Sagarmala programme will promote sustainable development of coastal communities through improved infrastructure, better opportunities and services. The key focus areas in Coastal Communities Development include skill development and livelihood generation projects.
Q: How do you plan to decongest ports?
A: To tackle the problem of congestion we have to increase the capacity of our existing ports. Based on the benchmarking exercise conducted for the 12 major ports with the global best-in-class ports, 104 initiatives were identified that would lead to the unlocking of 100 MMTPA of existing major port capacity over the next three years. 29 of these initiatives have been implemented and the remaining initiatives are under implementation. In addition to the ongoing expansion at major ports, findings from the cargo traffic scenario study were utilised to identify the capacity expansion opportunities at the existing ports. The capacity expansion projects proposed are expected to add 920 MMTPA to the existing port capacity (540 MMTPA in major ports and 380 MMTPA in non-major ports). Apart from this, we are also coming up with new ports as mentioned above.
Q: The Kerala government feels that the Vizhinjam Port is going to be a game-changer with the state government forging a partnership with the Adani Group. Are there other new ports which are going to come up?
A: We will be developing new greenfield ports at Vadhavan, Paradip Satellite Port, Sagar Island, Vodarevu, Sirkazhi and a trans-shipment hub at Enayam.
Q: Do you think that in the coming years, ports will have a much larger role to play in the economy?
A: Ports are India’s gateways of growth. We plan to double India’s existing port capacity by 2025. In the coming years not only will they add more value to the economy but will also create a lot of jobs for the people of this country.