Since the first merchant ship set out in the trading world back in 1919, India’s maritime industry has come a long way. Today, it holds significant importance in the nation’s economy by contributing above 95 per cent of commerce volume and recently achieved a milestone target of $400 billion in exports for FY2022. According to the reports, this is not only the first time that India is going to have successfully hit a mark as ambitious as this but also surpassed it as of March 31. On this National Maritime Day, let’s take a look at India’s port-led development.
Ports are an efficient way of transporting large quantities of goods in a fast and effective manner. Statistically, shipping is the spine of international trade, contributing to carrying more than 80 per cent of the volume and 70 per cent by value, globally. From the maritime point of view, India has a promisingly long coastline of 7,500 km and potentially navigable waterways of about 14,500 km. With about 50 per cent of world maritime trade and container traffic and 70 per cent of energy trade passing through, India has been at the epicentre of all international trade routes throughout history.
The Sagarmala Project, approved in 2015, has aimed to harness these tactical advantages and promote a strategic port-led development in India with a vision to lower the logistics costs for the EXIM and domestic trade and boost export competitiveness. Seven years on, today the project has been delivering strong and has helped improve ports’ efficiency and service quality by driving down the turnaround time for shipping containers to 26.58 hours from 44.7 hours in 2013-14. Overall, 802 projects worth Rs 5.48 trillion are expected to be completed by 2035, out of which 194 projects (Rs 990 billion) have already been completed. The holistic objective of the Sagarmala Programme has been five-fold: port modernisation and new ports development, port connectivity enhancement, port-linked industrialisation, coastal community development, and promoting coastal shipping and inland waterways.
A total of 14 new projects have been slated under new ports development which are distributed across the coastal states and Union Territories of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and the Andaman and the Nicobar Islands.
Among many disruptions that the pandemic wrought, it also underscored the importance of transport in keeping an economy running – especially as maritime transportation emerged as an essential industry in maintaining the delivery and supply of critical goods and supplies – and for post-crisis recovery and resuming normality. Post-2020, the industry has been witnessing evolved behavioural and consumer patterns with an emphasis on sustainably and ethically sourced goods and products, a high inclination of businesses to adopt technology having seen the benefits and proof of its operating resiliency first-hand and, additionally with the current political backdrop, the need to invest and streamline the sector’s risk assessment and preparedness.
The next 7 years are crucial to avoid Climate Change from becoming irreversible and destructive. As such it is a crisis that the globe has collectively been working upon, with decarbonising and climate-proofing operations being widely touted as the next logical step. Moreover, investing in resilient and sustainable infrastructure does more than mitigate climate-related shocks and tackle natural disasters. If the technology acceleration has proven anything then it is that investing in risk-resilient, energy-efficient and green operations pave way for a two-fold benefit for businesses. It makes them not just environmentally sustainable by reducing their carbon impact but also commercially sustainable since these shifts bring with them sound financial gains.