Call for greater cooperation between BIMSTEC nations

Cooperation and collaboration between BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Co-operation) countries can improve trade and commerce, and tourism prospects in the region, but it has to be taken forward, according to Union Minister of State for Shipping (Independent charge) Mansukh Mandaviya.

He was participating as chief guest at the inaugural of the two-day BIMSTEC conclave of ports here on Thursday.

He said India would be of great use to the other six member-nations in BIMSTEC – Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Nepal. There was great potential for improving maritime cooperation, trade and commerce among the seven nations, as all them were registering 6% to 7% growth rate in spite of the global slowdown and the combined GDP was around 3.71 trillion USD, he said.

Mr. Mansukh Mandaviya pointed out that the ship-building industry in the country would get a boost with a ship design and model testing centre coming up at IIT- Kharagpur.

The facility would be the first of its kind in the country.

“An MoU has already been inked to that effect,” he said.

On the proposed single window system, he said it would bring the major ports (12 in all) in the country under one roof, and benefit the importers and exporters. “Everything will be done through one comprehensive online platform to reduce the work load,” he said.

On the new Bill to be introduced in Parliament, he said it would only enhance the functional autonomy of the ports and not adversely affect any stakeholder.

“It is being introduced to enable the major ports to compete with private ones without any hassles on the tariff and other issues,” he said.

Inland waterways

Mr. Mansukh said steps were being taken to improve inland waterways.

“We have already signed an agreement for the Brahmaputra river protocol route with Bangladesh. This will enable us to move cargo from Varanasi to far the flung north-eastern States via Haldia and Bangladesh,” he said.

“The inland waterways will pave the way for easy, hassle-free movement of cargo from any part of India to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal, and to the north-eastern States of India,” he said.

“India is investing in developing ports in the BIMSTEC countries,” he added.

Talking about the flagship Sagarmala project, the Union Minister urged the member-countries to participate in some of the projects.

“In Sagarmala, there are about 542 projects and close to 289 have been grounded. It will give a boost to all ports, including the defunct minor ones,” he said.

Port at Ramayapatnam?

Later, interacting with the media, Mr. Mansukh said a plan to develop another major port in Andhra Pradesh, besides Visakhapatnam, had been mentioned in the A.P. Reorganisation Act, 2014.

Initially, Dugarajapatnam in Nellore district had been considered. But later it was not found suitable. We had written to the TDP government to suggest an alternative site. The YSRCP government has sent a proposal. Ramayapatnam in Prakasam district is being considered. A feasibility report is being made,” he said.

He said the Centre was also drawing plans to develop 202 minor ports in the country, under the control of States, as only 74 were now functional.

Sanjay Bhatia, chairman of Indian Ports’ Association and Chairman of the Mumbai Port Trust, spoke about the possible areas of cooperation among the member-nations. Tourism Minister M. Srinivasa Rao spoke about improving tourism opportunities between the member-countries.

VPT Chairman K. Ramamohana Rao welcomed the delegates.