Accounting for nearly 17 per cent of the national coastline, Maharashtra and Kerala are two key maritime states in the country. With a significant thrust on port development and maritime transformation from the government, both states are taking notable steps to address the long-pending issues in their respective port sectors while pursuing plans to create fresh infrastructure on the country’s west coast. A snapshot of the boards’ plans, initiatives and areas of concern…
The southw-estern state of India has recently joined the league of states with a maritime board (earlier, the state government’s ports department was the nodal agency). With the aim of developing 18 minor ports in the state, the board aims to cater to the industry, trade, commerce and agriculture sectors of the region.
With regard to projects for port development, the board is pursuing its plans to develop facilities at Azhikkal, Beypore and Kollam on a priority basis. Among these, Azhikkal port will be developed to handle cargo from inland locations of Karnataka (specifically for moving commodities like coffee). Connectivity to the ports of Maharashtra and Gujarat ranks high on the board’s agenda. With regard to coastal transport, the board is planning to deploy roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) services on the Willington Island-Vallarpadam route. Besides, feeder services are planned for the Kollam-Colombo-Cochin connection. Other connections in focus include the Kollam-Cochin–Azhikkal-Beypore and Mangalore–Azhikkal-Beypore-Cochin routes.
One of the key issues with Kerala’s ports has been the non-availability of return cargo. To address this, the board has carried out extensive marketing and trade meetings, in addition to extending incentives. Steps have also been taken towards achieving goods and services tax-free-deemed export (to avoid business being lost to Colombo, as is the case at present). Plans are also afoot for developing Cochin port as a transshipment hub. The board is also promoting high speed passenger boats to connect Calicut, Cochin, Kollam and Trivandrum, in addition to cruise services at Kollam, Vizhinjam and Azhikkal. For storage, cold storage facilities are planned to be set up at Kollam and Beypore, and these would also offer opportunities for private players. Facilities such as inland container depots and container freight stations (at Azhikkal, Beypore and Kodungalur) will also be provided at all ports. A dry dock at Azhikkal and a floating dry dock at Kollam/Azhikalare are also to be set up. On the ancillary front, segments like ship repair yards and shipbuilding yards are receiving attention. Efforts are also being taken towards attracting specific consumers. For instance, automatic cement terminals are to be set up at various locations. Construction of oil tank farms is also being mulled over. Besides, the development of wind mills and floating/solar projects on port land/waters is also under consideration.
On the technology front, the board aims to deploy vessel traffic management systems, automatic identification systems and radars at all the ports in the state. Currently, infrastructure in line with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code is being developed. Computerisation and digitalisation of all ports is also a key priority area.
The Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) aims to develop ports at locations such as Dighi, Jaigad, Vijaydurg, Redi and Vadhavan. Some of the key projects under implementation are the expansion of the captive jetty at JSW Dharamtar port, jetty development at the Trombay and Yogayatan ports (for handling bulk cargo), and shipyard development projects at Ulwa-Belapur and Alibag. The board is also carrying out the Ferry Wharf-Mandwa ro-ro passenger project, and roro and jetty projects at Bhayander, Ghodbunder, Gorai, Manori, Narangi, Kharwadeshwari, Vasai and Malvan. Besides, a shipyard cluster has been proposed to be set up at Belapur. MMB is also aggressively pursuing the deployment of online survey and registration systems, and digitalisation of 199 paper nautical charts for the state’s inland waterways. Beach nourishment is also being carried out with financial aid from the Asian Development Bank. Besides, it is in the process of chalking out a master plan for maritime activities to be taken up during the coming decade. The plan is scheduled for finalisation by end February 2020.
While the initiatives of the two boards are progressing well, some key issues remain unaddressed. In Kerala, there are concerns regarding capital dredging, draught levels and lack of funds. In Maharashtra, Dighi Port and Bharti Shipyard are dealing with financial stress-related proceedings under the National Company Law Tribunal. Other challenges faced by MMB include the presence of a submarine oil/gas pipeline at the mouth of National Waterway 10, resolution of right-of-way charges, etc.
The Kerala and Maharashtra maritime sectors are poised for higher growth, given the extensive initiatives being taken. That said, timely execution will be key, and this calls for committed state governments and supportive policies.
Based on a panel discussion between Capt. Harish Khatri, Nautical Adviser, MMB, and V.J. Matthew, Chairman, Kerala Maritime Board, at a recent India Infrastructure conference