India's ambitious multi-billion dollar plan to expand
existing ports, set up new ones and revive inland waterways is on track. It has
got a boost from rising port profits and a new container terminal will be
operationalized in a few weeks, the country's shipping minister Nitin Gadkari
The government has lined up plans to invest
around $240 billion over a few years on a multiple-projects program including
setting up six new major ports such as Wadhwan and Colachel, he said.
The JNPT port in India's financial capital Mumbai has
already received offers from around 40 companies worth an aggregate total of $9
billion in its upcoming Special Economic Zone, or SEZ, which will be focused on
exports, the minister said over the weekend. The SEZ is meant to fact the stiff
competition from private ports like Adani-Group controlled Mundra.
A Taiwanese company alone has promised an investment
of over $900 million with the potential to create 40,000 jobs, he said without
divulging the name.
He was addressing a large gathering of overseas
Indians in Singapore to mark the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.
"We are going to inaugurate a $1.2 billion
port next month, in which Singapore has invested," Gadkari said. He was
referring to the new container terminal to be opened shortly at JNPT by Bharat
Mumbai Container Terminals, or BMCT, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Singapore's
"The most important sector for us is
shipping because of India's coastline of 7,500 km with 12 major ports, which
are making good profits," the minister said. Annual profits accruing from
ports are projected at around $1.05 billion this year, more than double the
amount earned four years ago, he said.
Close to $60 billion will be invested to improve
port-road and port-rail connectivity, the minister said, adding that additional
sums have also been allotted for modernization and mechanization of existing
The new PSA terminal in JNPT will go a long way
in improving the port-rail connectivity, the minister said. Until recently, rail
has ceded share of cargo handling in JNPT, to road. However, with the setting
of the new PSA terminal, the trend is likely to reverse.
State-owned rail company Container Corp. of
India, or Concor, has signed a memorandum of understanding to run dedicated
shuttle trains from the new terminal to consolidate containers railed between
JNPT and the rest of the country.
Indian Port Rail Connectivity Corp., or IPRCL --
a company specially dedicated to this purpose -- is working on other routes to
enhance the port-rail connectivity and has already approved several such
projects, he said. These include the Indore-Manmad rail line, where an
investment of $900 million has been lined up, he said. IPRCL also plans to
connect JNPT with Kasara in neighboring Thane district.
A "smart city" with state-of-the-art
technology and upgraded infrastructure is being set up at Kandla port, he said.
For the first time since the Kandla port was developed in the 1950s, India has
embarked upon setting up new major ports to handle rising freight
The minister said India is developing 111 inland
waterways to reduce the cost of moving goods and passengers within the country.
In areas where draft is shallow, dredging is being undertaken to increase it to
A 1,380 km Varanasi-Haldia inland waterway is
being developed along the river Ganges and a similar project is also on along
the Brahmaputra, he said. Sea traffic control has already started between
Haldia and Patna with ferries and ro-ro vessels operating on the route.
A $150 million cruise terminal is being set up
in Mumbai and similar initiatives will also be taken up in Chennai, Mangalore
and Goa, he said.
"Thousands of Indian tourists travel all
the way to Singapore for cruise holidays, when similar facilities can be
provided within the country itself," Gadkari said. All these projects are
part of the ambitious Sagarmala program to initiate a "Blue
The term is used to refer to a vision of cutting
logistical costs through improved and inter-linked waterways to facilitate
transportation of goods for India's domestic market.
Furthermore, it is hoped that by upgrading and
revitalizing existing ports, as well as building new ones, this would enable
India's plan to increase manufactured exports and international