The Major Ports are gearing up to promote Coastal Shipping thanks to the Sagarmala project and focus of the present day Government. Major Ports including Visakhapatnam Port Trust (VPT) have started taking measures including offering incentives to boost cargo transportation using Coastal Shipping.
Mr. M.T. Krishna Babu, IAS, Chairman, VPT, observes that Coastal Shipping in India is still in a nascent stage. Regarding increasing the volume of trade via the inland waterways he said, “The Sagarmala programme stressed the need to optimise the model mix of cargo movement among different modes with a focus on increasing the volume of trade via inland waterways and Coastal Shipping.”
“There is a strong case for tapping the potential available for Coastal Shipping to gain an advantage in cost of transportation and facilitate faster economic growth. The abundant coastline and the inland waterways, provide immense potential in the development of Coastal Shipping.”
He further said, “Port of Visakhapatnam is promoting coastal trade by extending 40% concession on the vessel related charges and cargo related charges. Two dedicated coastal cargo berths have been developed exclusively for handling coastal cargo. These berths are being developed as ‘Green Channel Facility’ for coastal cargo for hassle free cargo movement.”
India has a long coastline of about 7,500 km studded with 12 Major Ports and more than 200 Non-Major Ports. There are six inland waterways in the Country with a total navigable length of 14,500 km. Despite this, India has not explored the options of using Coastal Shipping, which could save Rs. 20,000 crore annually in the transportation of thermal coal alone. Further savings of Rs.5,500 crore and Rs.4,000 crore are forecast in steel transportation and cement respectively. However, during the past two years, there seems to be some activity in the Coastal Shipping segment.
Port of Visakhapatnam is geographically closer to the Mahanadi Coal Fields at Talcher and lb Valley Coalfields of Jharsuguda, Odisha.
As such movement of coal generated from these mines through Coastal Shipping to the Western and Southern parts of India can result in considerable cost saving.
Elaborating the potential of Coastal Shipping in the days to come, Krishna Babu explains, “The Container terminal with a quay length of 450 meters at the Port of Visakhapatnam is the deepest among Major Ports and can cater to vessels of a draft up to 15 meters. Port of Visakhapatnam is identified for development into a hub port as part of Maritime Agenda. There is also scope for coastal movement of steel, cement and petroleum products from Visakhapatnam Port by 2025 with the development of Coastal Economic Zone, Vizag- Chennai Industrial Corridor and Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemical Investment Region.”
ICC Shipping Association says Sagarmala terminals could promote transhipment, bunkering as value addition to shipbuilding and repairs. As per one industry forecast, “Coastal shipping needs 5,000 vessels of required type, tonnage and draft by 2020, carry more than 105 domestic freight by way of modal shift and in general, India should be able to carry at least 40% of its foreign trade cargo on Indian ships. Domestic shipping needs to a reserved place in policy with respect to Regulators, Ministry, Ports, etc.”
ICC Shipping Association observes the legislation changes and processes but infrastructural issues are yet to be addressed properly as practised in China, Japan, EU and the US. India still faces a shortage of containers, maintenance support and policy push, said the industry body. Organisations such as Food Corporation of India (FCI) have meanwhile taken measures to transport food grains using Coastal Shipping. Many other public sector units are too exploring ways and means of transporting cargo using Coastal Shipping in order to save on fuel bills besides being environment friendly.