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Coastal shipping has not taken off in India despite tall claims by the Ministry

Notwithstanding the tall claims of the Shipping Ministry of its efforts to promote the Coastal shipping industry hardly four to five million tons of cargo move through this segment annually though the country's potential is in the range of thirty million tons  Capt S V Subhedar, Past President of ICCSA, a nodal body of Indian Coastal Ship owners said here.

Addressing a knowledge sharing session on Coastal shipping, inland waterways and national sagar mala program organised by the Karaikal Port , a leading private port in Central Tamil Nadu on July 12 he said the domestic shipping should be exempted from regulations that govern the Exim trade and brought on level playing  conditions prevailing in the road transport industry. There must be a level playing field between domestic ship operators and truck industry with whom it competes, he emphasized. The domestic shipping industry should be rid of the regulations imposed by the DG Shipping and should be governed by RTO level agency to monitor them.

He said the government promised to prescribe a freight rate of Rs one per ton per kilometer four years ago. The proposal remains on paper. Only the Kerala government has implemented the scheme within its territory. Rules and regulations for the ships plying in the overseas routes are also prescribed for coastal ship operators which increases the cost of operation.

While foreign going vessels are exempted from payment of duty for the bunkers they load in Indian ports, the ships sailing in the coastal circuit are levied both the duty and local taxes. Ships sailing in the domestic sector have no repair facilities or dry docks in the coastline and they have to go to Singapore to avail of these facilities.

He said the popular coastal shipping circuits include Kandla Mundra, Mumbai and ports in Gujarat, Mumbai-Cochin, Cochin Chennai, Paradip Varanasi and Chennai North East.

Ships suitable to handle the coastal traffic are not available but there is no dearth for availability of coastal cargo. Major shipping companies like the SCI should procure them and other shipping companies will follow suit he said.

As many as 12 major ports have exclusive berths for coastal cargo and priority berthing facilites but they are not adequate to meet the rising demands of the industry.

Coastal cargo is hardly two per cent of the total cargo handled by the Indian ports which is way behind forty per cent in advanced countries.

fertilisers, foodgrains, sand ash, coal, tiles, cement and oversized cargoes are among the goods suitable for coastal traffic according to a study by KPMG he said.

The knowledge session on coastal shipping also identified goods that could fit in for handling by the Karaikal port situated in central Tamilnadu. Cement clinker and foodgrains are some of the goods suggested for the port.

Karaikal port handled diverse cargo like coal sugar cement fertilisers project cargo agro commodities, liquid cargo besides containers. The port has advanced cargo handling equipment, damage free ware housing facility. The port enjoys the reputation of fast turnaround of ships and smooth evacuation of cargo.

The port is set to fulfill the new opportunities in LNG, Containers and plethora of coastal cargo movements. The port is currently handling cement and clinkers in the coastal cargo segment. It has plans to expand the coastal cargo segment shortly.


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