UNDERSTANDING OUR WATERWAYS
Maharashtra is bestowed with a coastline of 720 km. Ashish Kumar Singh, Principal Secretary, Transport & Ports (Home) Department, Govt. of Maharashtra briefs Sapna Srivastava on the plans for developing water transport in the state.
WHAT ARE THE MODERNIZATION PLANS FOR THE MAHARASHTRA PORTS?
Apart from the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) and Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) that are handled by the Central Government, we are taking care 16 major and minor state sector ports. Most of these ports are operated and maintained by private companies. For example, JSW for Jaigarh Port and Earnest Shipping for Redi Port.
There are also some multipurpose jetties in the state that are not full-fledged ports but are carrying almost 20000 million cargos – all put together the state segment handles 47 million metric cargo each year.
We assist the private players with permits and approvals, driving ease of business to encourage more PPP model of business in this capital intensive segment. The department also interfaces the harbors to the national or state highway for connectivity. We are also encouraging more domestic cargo movement on water called coastal shipping in a big way.
The ports modernization and infrastructure enhancements happen when they start running over capacity. However, we are not using any of our state sector ports to full capacity currently. As we start using more and more our port capacity and take them to a stage where the vessels would have to wait, like in JNPT, that’s the time, new berths will be added.
In fact, at JNPT Singapore’s PSA International Pte Ltd has its own berth for anchoring ships as also, Dubai Port World and some other private players. The new model is also that the shipping lines start owning the berths which incentivizes them to bring cargo there.
HOW CAN WE UTILIZE OUR INLAND WATERWAYS FOR TRANSPORTATION?
In India, the mindset is of saving water than navigating the flowing waters. That is why we have built dams across rivers and they are now unnavigable. Additionally majority of bridges across rivers are of low height, obstructing the ships to pass from underneath them. These are some of the challenges in using inland waterways. Also, till now we have been using waters and ports only for cargo movements not completely understanding the opportunity of connectivity to various parts of the state via water, transporting passengers via ferries.
Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) has become India’s only port to get listed among the top 30 global container ports.
In a first, a roll-on-roll-off ship—popularly called RoRo—which can accommodate cars and private buses, is being launched between the Mumbai Port and Mandwa/ Dighi. The Ro-Ro will have space for 10 buses, 40 cars and 250 passengers and reduce the journey to an hour. Also, underway is RORO jetty water transport system linking south Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Alibaug to provide all weather boat connectivity.
India’s first luxury cruise ship, Angriya has already started making four trips a week between Mumbai and Goa. This will encourage cruise tourism in India.
Nations, like Netherlands, Britain, Norway have created recreational spots around their jetties encouraging cruise holidays. Germany, a landlocked nation has utilized its river streams to connect to the ocean. In India, while we have developed our road infrastructure and connectivity, water transport is something we need to develop for both domestic and international end-users. Mumbai Port is now coming up with a plan for revamp of eastern waterfront with parks, themed streets and cafes.
HOW THE PORT SECTOR WILL GROW IN THE NEXT 5 YEARS?
Within the next 5 years, we will see a lot of government emphasis on water transport development. We envisage more domestic cargo movement than international in coming few years. There are financial and operational challenges for investors and policies will be one of the greatest challenges, where we are ensuring smoother functioning and easer approvals.
Incentives to private companies to construct ports includes, extending the lease period from 35 to 50 years. Depending on the lease period we will change the premium so that the cost of dealing with the Government gets cheaper. For instance, charging, charging 50% ready reckoner rate for a 50 years lease, 30% for a 35-year-old lease and 20% if it’s a 25 years lease.