Endowed with a vast coastline of 7500 Km and navigable waterways of over 14,000 kms, India boasts of rich maritime heritage. Ranked 16th among maritime countries, it has one of the largest merchant shipping fleets in the world. Approximately 90% of the country’s trade by volume and 70% by value moves through maritime transport, highlighting the importance of ports and their contribution in sustaining the growth and development of the Indian economy.
The Government of India has been taking several initiatives to harness its natural advantages and to tap the vast potential for growth in maritime sector. One of the flagship programmes of the Government is the “Sagarmala” to promote coastal and port led development in a comprehensive and holistic manner.
Under the “Sagarmala” programme, large number of projects have been identified for strengthening the maritime infrastructure and increasing the total cargo handling capacity of the ports in the country. Apart from capacity addition, port efficiencies are being improved through mechanization and modernization. Sagarmala Development Company (SDC) has been incorporated to drive investments in identified projects.
The National Perspective Plan prepared under Sagarmala project has also identified around 75 connectivity projects including 10 Expressways, 7 ICDs, 4 Pipelines and more than 50 last mile connectivity projects.
Simultaneously, the Government also intends to boost the share of coastal and inland waterways in cargo transportation from the present 6% to 12%. It is expected that coastal shipping volume could grow from around 90 million tonnes at present to around 400 million tonnes by 2025. 111 National Waterways have been identified for movement of goods through inland waterways.
The Government has set up Indian Port Rail Corporation Ltd (IPRCL), to undertake last mile connectivity rail projects for Ports. IPRCL has been set up to emerge as an efficient rail infrastructure service provider company and ensure efficient movement of goods.
Recently, the Cabotage Law has been relaxed for 5 years to allow foreign flagged specialized vessels like Ro-Ro, Ro-Pax and LNG vessels to move cargo along the country’s coastline. The Shipping Ministry has also relaxed the Cabotage restrictions for ports that transship at least half of the containers handled by them. This move will help India create transshipment hubs within the country.