The first-of-its-kind ship design and model testing centre, that would come up in IIT-Kharagpur, would give a boost to the shipbuilding industry in the country, Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Thursday.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has already been signed in this regard between the Union Ministry of Shipping and IIT-Kharagpur, the minister said at the inaugural session of the two-day BIMSTEC Ports Conclave here.
A statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said three MoUs were signed between Ranong Port (Port Authority of Thailand) and the Port Trusts of Chennai, Vishakhapatnam and Kolkata at the conclave.
“These MoUs will contribute to BIMSTEC objective of strengthening connectivity and is a part of India’s Act East Policy. These MoUs will enhance connectivity between Ports on Thailand’s West Coast and Ports on India’s East Coast that is Chennai, Vishakhapatnam and Kolkata,” the statement said.
The MoUs will enhance economic partnership by cutting down the sea travel time between India and Thailand from 10-15 days to seven days, it said.
Mandaviya, the Union Minister of State for Shipping, said the proposed ship design and model testing centre in IIT-Kharagpur would be very useful for other BIMSTEC countries — Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
He said there was a great potential for improving maritime cooperation, trade and commerce among the seven BIMSTEC nations.
“Currently, port-based trade between our countries is around 3.71 billion USD. With multi-port connectivity and enhanced cooperation, we can increase this economy further,” Mandaviya said.
The global economic slowdown notwithstanding, the BIMSTEC countries were registering 6-7 per cent growth rate and there was a great deal of synergy in their interests, he said.
The minister said a single-window system for all the 12 major ports in the country was being developed and it would boost Exim trade.
New bill to be introduced
A new bill to be introduced in Parliament soon would only enhance functional autonomy of all major ports and not in anyway hinder them, he clarified.
The new legislation is only to enable major ports to compete with private ports without any hassles regarding tariffs and other matters, Mandaviya noted. He said steps were being taken to improve inland waterways in the country.
This would pave the way for easy, hassle-free movement of cargo not only from Benaras to Haldia to the northeast states but also Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal, Mandaviya said.
India is also engaged in developing ports and waterways in these countries. All this will immensely help these nations, he added.
Mandaviya urged the BIMSTEC member countries to participate in some of the projects under the Sagarmala programme to improve port modernisation, connectivity and inland waterways.
The shipping minister announced that an international conference would be organised in India in February on improving cruise tourism.
Later, talking to reporters, Mandaviya said a feasibility report was being prepared to develop a major port at Ramayapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.
There is a plan to develop another major port in AP as per the Reorganisation Act, 2014.
“Since Dugarajapatnam was not viable, we asked the state government to suggest an alternative location and Ramayapatnam has been proposed,” the minister said.
The Centre, he said, was also drawing up plans to develop 202 minor ports in the country, under the control of states, since only 74 were functional now.
“These ports play a very vital role in the economy,” he added.
Andhra Pradesh Industries Minister Mekapati Goutam Reddy, Union Additional Secretary (Shipping) Sanjay Bandopadhyay, Indian Ports Association Chairman Sanjay Bhatia, Visakhapatnam Port Trust Chairman Rama Mohan Rao and representatives from participating countries attended the event.
The BIMSTEC region brings together 1.67 billion people — 22 percent of the world population and a combined GDP of USD 3.71 trillion.
Four BIMSTEC summits have been held so far, the latest at Kathmandu on 30-31 August 2018. Earlier Summits were in Bangkok (2004), Delhi (2008), Nay Pyi Taw (2014).
A BIMSTEC Outreach Summit and Leaders’ Retreat was held in Goa in 2016.
The BIMSTEC leaders participated in the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at New Delhi on May 30 this year.