Ample Opportunities: Ambitious growth plans for the maritime sector

Ambitious growth plans for the maritime sector

With the large number of projects on the anvil, Gujarat has significant opportunities for stakeholders in the maritime segment. Some of the potential areas for investment are in the development of greenfield ports, ro-passenger (ro-pax) ferry services, smart port cities, shipbuilding and shipbuilding parks, coastal economic zones (CEZs), integrated port management system (IPMS), maritime clusters and a maritime university.

Ro-pax ferry service between Gogha and Dahej

The Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) is establishing a dedicated ro-pax ferry service between Gogha and Dahej to take advantage of the savings in terms of time/distance and fuel and to provide a safe mode of transport. The ro-pax service transports freight trucks as well as passengers, as undertaken in the European channel.

The ro-pax service aims to reduce the distance between Gogha and Dahej from the current 340 km by road to a mere 31 km via the sea route. It will also reduce travel time from 7 hours to only 1 hour required to cross 17 nautical miles (31 km) in the Gulf of Khambhat. While Gogha lies 20 km to the south of Bhavnagar, the Dahej terminal is located on the northern shore of the Narmada estuary, some 6 km from the town of Dahej.

The project is being undertaken on a public-private partnership basis. While GMB will be responsible for the construction of ferry terminals and dredging the channel, the operator will operate and maintain both the terminals and ferry vessel services. The operator will be required to provide a sufficient number of ferry vessels and to operate the ferries with their own crew, ensuring all-weather, round-the-year operations.

In October 2016, the Ministry of Shipping sanctioned capital dredging for the project. The ministry has released Rs 585 million as the first installment of grant-in-aid to GMB. The total project cost is estimated to be Rs 2.34 billion, of which 50 per cent will be funded by the central government under the Sagarmala programme.

GMB is also exploring the possibility of expanding the ro-pax ferry network in other locations within the Gulf of Khambhat and identifying places for ro-pax ferry operations in the Gulf of Kutch.

Maritime cluster

There exists a direct correlation between the competitiveness of a port and its proximity to world-class maritime services. Some of the most competitive ports in the world, such as Rotterdam, Singapore and Hong Kong, are strongly supported by their respective maritime clusters. For Gujarat, the creation of a maritime cluster is an important step, considering the array of interlinked maritime activities crucial to port competitiveness and economic development.

Through the development of a maritime cluster, GMB intends to create “complete ecosystems of port/shipping services within the state” to make its ports more attractive and efficient. It is an attempt on the part of the state to bring together all the stakeholders in areas such as core port services, finance and regulatory services, research and development, and education and training under the same roof.

In this backdrop, GMB, through its subsidiary, Gujarat Ports Infrastructure and Development Company Limited (GPIDCL), is undertaking the ambitious maritime cluster project.

The Gujarat government has already given in-principle approval for the project. GPIDCL has formed strong and strategic tie-ups by entering into MoUs with the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (UAE Branch) and the Maritime Forum, Norway, in order to explore possible areas of collaboration for the establishment of the proposed maritime cluster.

Gujarat maritime university

Gujarat has been attracting considerable investments in the maritime sector over the past several years and with a large number of proposed projects, the state is likely to need considerable manpower to run its port sector efficiently. In this context, the state has taken steps towards the development of a maritime university which will offer relevant courses of global standards. Shore-side courses will be offered on maritime transportation, policy and administration, management, safety, security, environment protection, etc. Conducting research will also be a key focus area. The university will be the backbone of the proposed maritime cluster.

GPIDCL has signed MoUs with reputed international universities such as the Korea Maritime and Ocean University and the UK’s Plymouth University for exploring tie-ups on curricula development, faculty exchange and conducting joint courses and research. The state government has already given in-principle approval for the setting up of the Gujarat Maritime University.

Integrated port management system

With the expansion of port infrastructure and the growth in port traffic, the use of information technology needs to be increased. This will help improve organisational efficiency, enhance stakeholder satisfaction and lower organisational costs. To this end, the state government is planning to set up an IPMS to improve port efficiency and promote the ease of doing business.

Coastal economic zones

Of the 14 CEZs proposed for development along the country’s coast under the Sagarmala programme, three are planned to be developed in Gujarat. These will be located at Kutch with a focus on petrochemicals, cement and furniture; in the Saurashtra region with a focus on the apparel and automotive sectors; and in South Gujarat with a focus on marine industries.

Smart port cities

The central government plans to build a smart city within the port community at each of the country’s 12 major ports. These proposed green cities will entail an estimated total investment of Rs 500 billion.

Further, there are plans of using Kandla port’s land bank to develop a smart industrial port city (SIPC) at the Kandla-Gandhidham-Adipur complex and township, incorporating green and smart city components.

The objectives of the initiative are to develop two greenfield sites on 1,500 acres around the existing Kandla-Gandhidham-Adipur complex, develop urban and industrial infrastructure to promote economic growth and improve quality of services; and achieve scales of operations to integrate the greenfield development with the existing township and drive the improvement of overall urban infrastructure in the complex. The board of the Kandla Port Trust has already approved the final master plan for the ambitious SIPC.

Greenfield ports

In addition to the greenfield ports at Mundra, Pipavav, Dahej and Hazira, GMB has identified developers for setting up ports at Chhara, Kacchigarh, Modhwa and Nargol. In addition, GMB will be conducting a study to identify new sites for greenfield port development and evaluate the preliminary feasibility of these sites.

Marine shipbuilding parks

Gujarat’s Shipbuilding Policy, 2010 has identified the development of marine shipbuilding parks (MSPs), with integrated shipbuilding and engineering units, to create an ecosystem and reduce production costs for shipbuilding activities. GMB has identified sites for allocating land parcels in the Dahej coastal area along the Narmada river for shipbuilding purposes. Similarly, the site for an MSP at Bhavnagar has also been identified.

The Gujarat government is in the process of revising its port policy of 1995 to leverage existing port locations for increasing port capacity and GMB’s revenue. The new  policy intends to create new PPP structures to get more investment for greenfield ports, as well as set up more jetties at existing port locations. Similarly, to make Gujarat an integrated maritime state, the policy will aim to promote port-led industries, shipbuilding, etc. The policy will also define the framework for the maritime cluster and university.

To conclude, the development of greenfield ports, supportive infrastructure and port-led industries in Gujarat are some of the key priorities for GMB going forward. Implementing IT-driven initiatives and increasing operational efficiencies at ports are the other focus areas of GMB. The numerous projects on the anvil will offer a host of opportunities to all stakeholders in the sector.