Powering Up Ports: Progress and opportunities under the Sagarmala programme

Progress and opportunities under the Sagarmala programme

The Sagarmala programme was launched by the Ministry of Shipping in July 2015 to harness the potential of the country’s 7,500 km long coastline, 14,500 km of conceivably navigable waterways, and a strategic location on key international maritime trade routes. The prime objective of the programme is to promote port-led direct and indirect development, and to provide infrastructure for transportation of goods to and from ports quickly, efficiently and cost effectively. The four pillars of the programme are port modernisation and new port development, port connectivity enhancement, port-led industrialisation, and coastal community development. Progress has been more visible in its port modernisation component than in the other areas.

As of February 15, 2021, the Sagarmala programme includes 514 projects, entailing an investment of about Rs 4.97 trillion. Of this, a total of 149 projects have already been completed. Of the completed projects, about 57 per cent are port modernisation projects, and 26.17 per cent are port connectivity projects. The remaining 365 projects are currently at various stages of implementation. Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, project implementation under the programme will witness a delay of at least six months to one year. Meanwhile, disruptions in supply chains and a lack of available workforce during the second wave of the pandemic may lead to further delays.

Upcoming opportunities and outlook

With a robust pipeline of projects, opportunities exist for various stakeholders across the maritime chain. According to India Infrastructure Research, 249 projects under the Sagarmala programme are in the pipeline at various stages (detailed project report [DPR] preparation, DPR prepared and under tendering). These projects are expected to entail an investment of Rs 2.39 trillion. Of the upcoming projects, 91 are under the port modernisation component of the programme and will be implemented at a cost of about Rs 863 billion. They will offer significant opportunities for technology and equipment providers. The emerging trend of replacing old equipment, and deploying efficient equipment and port automation systems has created significant demand for new specialised equipment. The upcoming greenfield ports also offer ample opportunities to technology providers, as they are being developed to match global standards.

Going forward, the Sagarmala programme is certainly going to provide a much-needed fillip to the port sector. However, given the large variety of projects, the requirement of massive project investments and the need for effective coordination between the central and state governments, the actual materialisation of projects could take more time than envisaged. Meanwhile, obtaining environmental clearances and acquiring land still remain difficult, especially for greenfield projects. Such challenges need to be addressed in order to ensure timely completion of projects under the programme.