Thursday, July 29, 2021
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Operation of Indian coastal shipping

Coastal Shipping can be managed by coastal states in close co-ordination with each other involving local seafarers, fisher folk and traders. It has to be operated in a very practical manner with total support from the Customs (Central Govt Dept) and major ports (again headed by an IAS with entrenched bureaucracy). The practice of paying exorbitant prices for the tugs and paying excessive berthing charges should be stopped.

Selection and overseeing the masters of these coastal and inland craft will be an important function to ensure that they put their head down and work for their vessels and their trade. They should not misunderstand that they will not be subjected to training, retraining and performance reviews in coastal shipping. Coastal vessel operators should not perform substandard work.

Therefore Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari should work in tandem with an experienced Japanese engineer who has worked on coasts as a consultant or an adviser. Visit Yangon and meet the traders.

I had written two articles in the recent past about these topics but I doubt whether anyone has read them. Sailing vessels have been operating efficiently from Tuticorin to Colombo and from Gujarat coasts. I myself once surveyed several sailing vessels at Porbunder and “Tutkodi”. Trade has been flourishing along the Hooghly River. There is a need to encourage and provide support to such local expertise. Services should not be operated from Delhi with the assistance of those who never have sailed on a small coastal vessel.

Indid and Myanmar must improve their bilateral trade which will pave way for both nation’s economic development. “Mere piya gaye Rangoon, kiya hai wahan se telephoon, tumhari yaad satati hai….”. “Nadia chale, chale re dhara…tujhko chalna hoga….”. Watch the film China Town starring Shammi Kapoor and Shakila as you can notice Howrah bridge and the boats in the movie. Indian coastal shipping has failed to work profitably because we have ourselves complicated the things. Even though today’s youth are educated but they lack skills which are required to succeed in the real world. Therefore the government must take initiative and impart training to youth so that they can find employment. The government must also overhaul the educational system and give more importance to vocational training.

If you ask me to name some good crew, I will enlist the names of Mr Lawrence and M.V. Saleema. He had started working on Raj line ships from the the young age of 15. Even though he was not well educated but he possessed indepth knowledge of the ship and it functioning. Mr Lambson might be found on police boats operating from Port Blair. We used to go to Tuticorin anchorage during the early seventies.

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