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India must invest in connectivity, not in more ports: World Bank expert

India needs more investments in multi-modal connectivity to existing ports than new deep-sea ports, the World Bank official said even as most of the proposed new ports are only at the drawing board stage. It takes nearly fifteen years from the time a port project is conceptualized and implemented in India.

“There is enough port capacity available prime facie; what is not available is the multi-modal connectivity to the ports,” said Biju Ninan Oommen, Senior Port and Maritime Transport Specialist, Transport & ICT Global Practice at the World Bank.

“What India needs is investment in the land side in multi-modal logistics than more deep-sea ports at this point,” Oommen said while addressing the Indo-Dutch Forum on Smart and Sustainable Port-led Development.a few days ago

The 12 major ports run by the Central government have a capacity to handle 1,359 million tonnes (mt) of cargo a year. The dozen ports handled a combined 679.35 mt of cargo in the year to March 2018, operating at a capacity utilization of 50 per cent.

Several new ports built with private funds have added to the capacity and many are struggling for cargo as growth remains subdued due to a decade of weak global trade. The ports in Gujarat and Maharashtra working well beyond the capacity, the ports in the east coast are working at fifty per cent of the capacity. While the government is strengthening the connectivity to ports in the west coast, the railway infrastructure to east coast ports are abysmally poor according to the port official.

The Shipping Ministry has identified six locations to build new ports — Vadhavan (Maharashtra), Enayam (Tamil Nadu), Tajpur (West Bengal), Paradip Outer Harbour (Odisha), Sirkazhi (Tamil Nadu) and Belekeri (Karnataka). Though these new ports were conceived when the present government came to power, it would take at least four years for construction to start..

“The techno-economic feasibility report has been prepared for five locations and is under preparation for Tajpur. Detailed project reports are under preparation for Vadhavan, Enayam and Paradip Outer Harbour Projects. In-principle Cabinet approval has been obtained for a transshipment port at Enayam,” a Shipping Ministry official said.

Sagarmala project

The government plans to invest Rs.91, 371 crore to expand port capacity by 884 mt by 2035 as part of the ambitious Sagarmala programme, according to the Shipping Ministry. The plan includes 39 road connectivity projects for improving and strengthening the connectivity of major ports to national and state highways, the Ministry said.

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