Yesterday, India observed the National Maritime Day. On this day in 1919 navigation history was created when SS Loyalty, the first ship of the Scindia Steam Navigation Company, journeyed to the United Kingdom. The National Maritime Day was first celebrated on 5th April, 1964. Over the years, we have made reasonably good progress in maritime shipping and have acquired proficiency in the trade. Thus we can legitimately feel proud of our achievements. Our National carrier, the Shipping Corporation of India has done a laudable job but it needs to do more because after the loss of M.V. Chidambaram, we do not have any big passenger ship under the Indian flag which is a major cause of concern.
India has not developed sufficient facilities (floating dry docks) to repair ships outside the nation. For achieving this objective, the government should seek the assistance of foreign countries, if required. Let this task also become a part of the Make in India programme which will give a boost to manufacturing activities in the country. India has about 7516 kilometres of coastline serviced by a total of 182 ports, 12 of them under a special status as Major Ports being under the purview of the Central Government. Seventy other ports termed as minor ones come under the jurisdiction of the respective State Governments. Ennore in Tamil Nadu has been declared as the 12th Major Port.
A lot of development has taken place in the activities pertaining to the manufacturing engines, pumps, compressors and many other ship board equipment, big and small, as witnessed in a recent exhibition at Goregaon and for which we deserve credit.
Indian ports have also become efficient like Mundra, Kandla, and JNPT. India continues to have the largest merchant shipping fleet among the developing countries and ranks 17th in the world in terms of shipping tonnage. There have been reports in media about the corporatisation of Indian ports but this activity should be undertaken in a phased manner. Before going ahead with this policy the government must take into confidence the labour organisations and local stake holders.
I have spoken a lot about the IWT and Coastal Shipping. Now we need to move on these fronts by integrating the two modes in an amicable and practical manner, setting aside jurisdictional issues. INSA members must be asked to take up coastal shipping employing latest green technology vessels using LNG.
Maritime education remains a matter of concern where skill training must be given greater priority rather than theoretical training. The government must seek assistance from other organizations like IDEMI. We should not feel shy of taking help of foreign technicians based in Ukraine.