Interview: We see Goa becoming ship building capital of India: Dialani

The potential of Goa as a shipbuilding hub was first identified by the then Director General of Shipping, Dr Malini V Shankar. The vision is now being nurtured by the present DG, Amitabh Kumar. The Konkan Maritime Cluster which was proposed to the State government by 22 MSMEs involved in various sectors of maritime has now grown to 49 in number. Chairman and managing director of the Konkan Maritime Cluster, Suraj J Dialani spoke on how Goa can become the shipbuilding capital of the country.

Q: Why was this cluster formed and from where did the idea generate?

A:  Cluster of enterprises with vast experience and competence in shipbuilding, ship designing, marine equipment manufacturing, ship and boat repairing has always been part of Goan economy. The cluster has been here for more than two generations contributing to the socio economic development of the State and yet there is immense scope for this industry to meet its true potential.

Q: How will the land allotment help you and your sector?

A: The Common Facility Center (CFC) will be set up in this allotted land which will help in the following way: (a) Growing the sector by improving productivity; (b) Making the cluster units more competitive by complementing the manufacturing processes and addressing the  common challenges at lower cost; (c) Making the cluster units more sustainable by empowering them to capacity building; (d) Giving the units much needed knowledge through a skill center, access to modern machinery to  innovate  their products and reduce the carbon footprint of industry as a whole. As a result of this the Goan youth have another sector of employment and opportunity for exploring their abilities in entrepreneurship.

Q: Is this unique in India and what opportunity does it present?

A: Goa has been the most vibrant maritime cluster of India, making major contributions to Indian Maritime from time immemorial. Most of the inland and coastal vessels operating on Indian coastline have been designed and built in Goa. The industry was a natural progression from mining activities and inland water transport of cargo. Goa has more than two major inland waterways  and this ability to build steel, aluminium and fibre boats for various types of sea conditions is a sheer display of high quality expertise and skill in Goans. The Cluster has been exporting ships to Europe, Asia-Pacific regions and the UAE. This CFC establishment will now provide Goan MSME shipbuilding units the required infrastructure to participate and compete for Naval defense ship orders. The cluster will now become the platform for international clusters to interact and come together for mutual growth. This is the single best opportunity for Indian shipbuilding.

Q: What are the immediate challenges before you?

A: The immediate tasks will be to obtain the approval of our project from the techno economic appraisal committee and also get the financial approval from Small Industries Development Bank of India. Apart from all these we need to arrange the gap fund till we get the grant from Government of India.

Q: How do you see the maritime ecosystem in Goa functioning?

A: The hit from mining ban was very painful for the repair industry which is still struggling to recover. The erratic oil prices and global shipping scenario being weak for some time has put the burden on small enterprises to find new avenues of sustaining. However, steadily and mindful of global recessions with business risks, the ecosystem in Goa is evolving to the concept of being self-reliant (Aatmanirbhar). The river transport for passengers, cruise tourism and cargo transport is picking up. The recent amendments in rules for inland shipping and Sagarmala project, is going to give the ecosystem its self sustaining food chain. With Goa’s strategic location on west coast of India and the proximity of well integrated maritime ecosystem to major shipping routes, only makes it easier to increase the span of our maritime services to global shipping. Its advantage Goa, once this CFC is commissioned.

Q: Development of inland waterways and success of Sagarmala projects is very crucial for your sector. What is the progress there?

A: Goa is close to emerging economies of UAE, Africa and countries like Maldives which heavily depend on marine transport for their daily life. Our tidal difference is minimal, rivers are calm and we share borders with two big industrial states of India, Maharashtra and Karnataka.  Ships designed and built in Goa can operate on any coast of India. Shallow water designs to efficient ships at economical pricing, has been the strength of Goan shipbuilding. Quality ships built on time, has been the Goan profile and hence we see Goa being celebrated as the ship building capital of India once the CFC is set up. Success of Sagarmala is important for Indian maritime and Goa will want to hold the major share of this development. The project has already started creating the flow of shipbuilding orders for India. We only hope that GoI keeps all orders of this project earmarked for competitive bidding to the blood line of Indian shipbuilding, which is the MSME sector. Public sector units have been invested with huge infrastructure and should focus on research and development. The PSUs should develop indigenous designs and build LNG carriers and VLCCs. They should focus on building complex, high value warships which India could command to be a naval super power. The auxiliary crafts and vessels should be built by the MSME sector of India. This will ensure overall development of the industry and prepare the ancillary industry to support the PSUs in their shipbuilding.

Q: How do you see Goa becoming a major hub for ship building in India?

A: Goa has the biggest maritime cluster. Good connectivity to rail, road and international air transport systems are getting in place. Two of the major and effective waterways with ready infrastructure on rivers are already there. One natural major port and one minor port are also present. Availability of the manpower from unskilled to skilled levels and access to major engineering industries and products at the borders is there. Goa is inherently the ideal location for ship building the small and medium size ships. That is the core competence of Goan ship building. We have more than 180 units engaged in shipbuilding and its ancillary works. The state also has one PSU (Goa Shipyard Ltd) in shipbuilding. Chowgule shipbuilding Division, Vijai Marine Shipyard Pvt Ltd, Mandovi Drydocks Pvt Ltd, Aquarius shipyard and Dempo Shipyard Pvt Ltd are from Goa and among the top 10 private sector shipyards of India.

The State govt will need to hand hold this industry to reap the multiplier effect it will have on employment and investment. The industry will need to be given industrial status on priority and insist upon the financial institutions to grant all facilities, services as per infra structure status of the industry. Goa is already the hub of shipbuilding. We need to scale to next level for which we all have come together in this special purpose vehicle (SPV) – Konkan Maritime Cluster, and will change the way shipbuilding is done in India. We will pioneer and formulate this approach which will inspire other states to follow.