Today, the nation is celebrating its 58th edition of ‘National Maritime Day’ which is dedicated to India’s illustrious maritime history. It was on this day in 1919 that the navigation history was created when SS Loyalty, the first ship of the Scindia Steam Navigation Company Ltd, sailed from Mumbai to the United Kingdom. This marks a crucial step for India’s shipping history, as today, nearly 90% of India’s international trade in terms of volume and 77% in terms of value is moved by sea.
The day commemorates the awareness in supporting intercontinental commerce and the global economy as the most well-organized, safe, and sound, environmentally responsive approach of transporting goods from one corner of the world to another.
Significance of Indian Shipping Industry
Shipping plays an important role in driving India’s transportation sector. Since independence, the Indian Shipping tonnage has registered exceptional growth. The Indian merchant fleet strength stood at 1,401 vessels with 12.69 million gross register tonnage (GRT) as on December 2018, representing 70 fold increases in GRT since independence.
There are two geographical factors that put the Indian maritime sector at an advantageous position, one of them being the vast coastline of 7,500 km. With a coastline close to 7517 km and 13 major & 200 minor ports, India is a desired destination for shipping and transhipment. The second factor is the strategic location that is very much near the major shipping highways.
India’s ports have become a major strength for it now. The country has witnessed a substantial growth in cargo traffic leading to utilization levels of almost 94% with major revenue streaming from port charges. Over-congestion at the ports led Indian ports to begin collecting congestion charges recently. Other sources of revenue include demurrage collection, port handling activities, storage of containers, providing Depot services, etc.
In order to sustain the growth of the sector, the government has led a lot of initiatives. A host of business-friendly policies have also been introduced by the government in order to push for investment in the sector. These policies aim to modernize existing port infrastructure and creating new ones, promote green energy, promote IT development and most importantly, skilling the talent to sustain the operations of the structure.
The Sagarmala (string of ports) project is a strategic and customer-oriented ₹8 trillion (US$120 billion or €100 billion) investment initiative of the Government of India. It entails setting up of more than 6 mega ports, modernization of several dozen more ports, development of 14 plus Coastal Economic Zones and at least 29 Coastal Economic Units, development of mines, industrial corridors and rail, road & airport linkages with these water ports. ‘Sagarmala- Concept and Implementation’ were approved by the Union Cabinet on March 25, 2015, under a National Perspective Plan (NPP) for the Sagarmala Programme.
The initiative has now been further developed to ‘SAGAR- Security and Growth for All in the Region’. Under this, India has been aiding countries in the southern Indian Ocean by supplying consignments of Covid related essential medicines, food items, Medical Assistance Teams, and more to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The White Shiping Agreement
The white shipping information refers to exchanging prior information on the identity and movement of commercial non-military merchant vessels. This is essential as the entire world is connected through the stretches of oceans. For the safety and security purpose of the states, it becomes important to have information about any sort of possible movement in the sea. This is done through White Shiping Agreement which also gives information regarding maritime traffic. India has inked white shipping agreements with 24 countries.