Significantly shorter turnaround times in ports will attract global shipping companies: Sonowal

Over the next 25 years, India will see rapid strides in infrastructure development, with communications and transport continuing to be the bedrock, said Sarbananda Sonowal, Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways. He said India’s ports had seen a significant improvement in turnaround times and advocated attracting more global shipping lines to the country with plans underway to modernize greenfield and brownfield ports. Edited excerpts:

The Prime Minister recently met with ministers on a long-term vision. What is on the agenda for infrastructure development?

Building infrastructure is definitely a focus. The vision of making India a developed and independent country by 2047 is a priority Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emphasized. If major projects like Bharatmala and Sagarmala had not been visualized, India would not have progressed at the pace it is doing. Kartavya Kal will see improvements in connectivity and communication over the next 25 years to 2047.

The Prime Minister said that without transport there could be no transformation. People in Indian villages will get better prices for their produce if they have access to markets.

In the last nine years there has been a significant improvement in port parameters such as port efficiency, productivity and performance. The total cargo handling capacity in the major ports has increased by 86% from 871.52 million tons per year in 2014-2015 to 1617 million tons per year in 2022-23. Political reforms to strengthen the major port authorities have also been successfully implemented.

This should be viewed in the context of 60 years of misgovernment by Congress-led governments compared to nine years of rapid development under the current regime.

India’s container turnaround time is 0.9 days, better than Singapore (1 day), UAE (1.1 days), Germany (1.3 days), US (1.5 days), Australia (1 .7 days), Russia (1.8 days) and South Africa ( According to the Logistic Performance Index Report-2023 published by the World Bank, the average container dwell time in India is less than 3 days, which is better than the UAE and South Africa ( 4 days), in the USA (7 days) and in Germany (approx. 2.8 days) 10 days.

What steps are being considered to encourage shipping companies to favor Indian ports?

We need to form strategic alliances with major shipping companies to set up our own terminals in Indian ports. This would ensure their ships call at Indian ports, bringing in more cargo and business. It is also required to increase gateway and transshipment freight in Indian ports, minimize transshipment time, streamline vessels and reduce freight-related fees. Value-added services such as bunkering, container repair, ship inspection and repairs can also be developed in Indian ports.

What is the status of the modernization of the port infrastructure?

Several ports are experiencing an upswing. The development of Vadhavan port with a cargo handling capacity of over 300 tons per year is planned. This Maharashtra deepwater port is expected to add container handling capacity of more than 23 million TEU (Twenty Foot Equivalent Units) by 2040, putting India on the world map of top 10 container ports.

By 2027, the major ports of Deendayal and Paradip are also to be expanded into megaports with a cargo handling capacity of more than 300 tons per year.

Is government intervention needed to bring Alang’s ship recycling centers back to the fore?

India was a leader in ship recycling a decade ago. However, due to various domestic and international factors, ship recycling volume in India has declined and today we are ranked third in the world. The government is keen to take remedial action to bring the ship recycling industry back to the top in India. These measures include improving the road connection from the Alang shipyard to the village of Trapaj. Other international partnerships and tax and tariff reforms are also planned to revitalize the sector.

Terminal leases signed in the early 2000s are set to be renewed this decade. What is the government’s position on renewal?

Terminals in major ports are offered as part of a public-private partnership based on a model concession agreement. The first such MCA was launched in 2008, amended in 2018 and recently in November 2021. Terminals operated by private investors prior to 2008 were subject to the agreements signed between the port trusts of the time and the private investors. After the agreement period has expired in such cases, the existing operators can continue their operations if they decide to participate in the tendering process and turn out to be successful bidders. A clearly defined process is now available in the Model Concession Agreement 2021, which also provides for an extension through a transparent tendering process.

Source: Economic Times

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