Address by Hon’ble Union Minister of Shipping Shri G.K. Vasan on the National Maritime Day Golden Jubilee Celebrations on 5th April, 2013

Following is the text of the speech by Hon’ble Union Minister of Shipping on the National Maritime Day Golden Jubilee Celebrations On 5th April, 2013: 
“I am glad to be here in Mumbai on the Grand Finale of the “50th National Maritime Day Celebrations”. As you know, the celebrations kicked off with the pinning of the flag on the apparel of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India. Indian civilization has a glorious maritime history and today we are a major maritime nation. The theme “Last 50 years of Indian Shipping – Introspection and Way Ahead”, a seminar which was inaugurated yesterday by the Hon’ble Minister of State Shri Milind Deora, is very appropriate for the occasion.

Indian shipping sector has seen tremendous growth since independence. The Indian merchant Shipping fleet which in 1947 consisted of 59 ships with a total tonnage of about 0.19 MGT has now increased to 10.36 MGT comprising of 1162 vessels. Likewise, the cargo handled by our ports has grown from a mere 30 MMT in 1960-61 to about 930 MMT in 2012-13.

The capacity of our ports has also increased during the last 50 years and breached the significant milestone of one billion metric tonne in 2011. It now stands at 1250 MMTPA. The government has decided to set up two more ports, one each in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. Besides, the growth of non major ports has been tremendous and these ports contribute about 40% in terms of traffic handled.

Three years back, the Ministry of shipping undertook a comprehensive exercise to identify issues and to prepare a roadmap for the future. The result is the Maritime Agenda – 2020 in which we have set some goals for every field in the maritime sector and proposed a series of initiatives to achieve them.

On the shipping side, growth in traffic has far outstripped the growth of Indian tonnage, increasing thereby our dependence on foreign flagships. We need to have adequate Indian control over maritime activities, in the context of our growing international trade and increasing energy demand.

Coastal shipping and inland waterway transport is another area which have not kept pace with the development of the sector. We need to reduce the over dependence on road and rail transport by promoting coastal shipping and inland waterway system.

The Indian ship building industry accounts for only 1% of the global share. Given our inherent advantages, this is an area of potential growth.

As a major provider of seafarers to the world, we need to further develop our capacity to produce highly qualified and dedicated seafarers. The Indian Maritime University was set up in 2008 with this objective in mind. Today our competent and dedicated seafarers constitute 5% of the world’s total.

Also it is imperative that we promote safe navigation in our coasts and ports besides securing the coastline from forces inimical to our country. This is being addressed with a chain of lighthouses and lightships equipped with state-of-the-art systems.

In the port sector, our main focus has been to expand the capacity, improve efficiency and increase the draft. Our approach through the PPP route has been paying off and in 2012-13 alone we have awarded a record number of 32 projects for an estimated investment of around Rs. 6700 crores.

It is also noteworthy that the Government has given prominence to Inland Waterway Transport in the 12th Five Year Plan through higher plan allocation. A bill to declare the Lakhipur-Bhanga stretch of Barak River in Assam as National Waterway No. 6 has already been introduced in the Rajya Sabha.

Finally, I would like to draw our attention to the incidents of piracy because of which many of our sailors suffered immensely. More than 250 Indian seafarers were taken hostage since 2007 and 8 of them are still held hostage. I would like to reiterate that the Government of India is working hard to secure the early and safe release of our seafarers held hostage. We shall continue our proactive role, both domestically and internationally, in curbing the menace of piracy.

The National Maritime Day celebrations have helped the people at large to learn about the role and activities of shipping industry. The more the people come to know about the sector, the more would be our responsibility to deliver and to provide various services. As stakeholders, our main focus should then be to address the issues that are before us.

I take the opportunity of this special occasion to wish all the stakeholders of the shipping industry. I also congratulate the members of the organizing Committee for carrying forward the grand tradition and making a grand success of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations which was marked by solemnity and gaiety. Thank You.”

(Release ID :94497)


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