Vision for Port Lead Development of Maharashtra

Jan 16, 2013, 3:18PM EST
At their conference to highlight the developments of ports in the Western region state of Maharashtra, MACCIA showcases a treasure chest of opportunities that exists for private stakeholders in this sector

The state of Maharashtra boasts of a coastline of 720 km encompassing two major ports which are under the federal government and 48 smaller ports under the state government.  Maharashtra with its premier position in country’s trade and commerce activities is focusing on harnessing synergies in the development of ports and port related infrastructure. The Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (MACCIA) took the initiative in providing an added impetus for all round growth of the port sector by conducting a conference on ‘Vision for Port Lead Development of Maharashtra’ last week. The occasion received wide support not only from the state government but also from the trade and various stakeholders. 

According to the speakers at the conference there are many issues that needed to be addressed urgently particularly those of road and rail connectivity, enhancement of ports capacity, finance, inordinate delays in acquiring permissions, etc. Although several minor ports are in existence along the coastline of the state, a major concern is that the full potential of these ports has not been exploited mainly because of the lack of infrastructure. This has resulted in the phenomenon of all hinterland cargo converging at one major port or cargo getting diverted to other newly developed ports in other states. There are all the chances of the state losing its competitive advantage unless proper infrastructure facilities are created for ports to achieve this full potential.

There was a consensus among the speakers about the need to create sustainable infrastructure for development of ports in state simultaneously focusing on the kind of infrastructural facilities that would be required. They stressed on the need for developing and improve connectivity as this would greatly help in bringing in private players.

“Ports and connectivity projects need to be planned simultaneously and the concession agreements should be relaxed to permit longer term for the operators thus making the projects viable,” contended Capt B. V. J. Sharma, Joint Managing Director & CEO of JSW Infrastructure Ltd. “Besides, the country is losing around $ 45 billion because of poor connectivity,” he stressed. 

H.D. Gujrati, Director – Operations & Business Development Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd., pointed out, “India was the only emerging nation where freight trains run simultaneously with passenger trains on the same corridor.” He highlighted the status of the Dedicate Freight Corridor which was set to be taken up for development as land acquisition was nearing completion.   

Speaking on the issue of “Creation of Environment Friendly Infrastructure” Dileep Bhagwat, Sr V. P. (Operations) of Backett Ranking India Pvt Ltd., gave various reasons for the protracted delays and for projects not getting completed in time. This he said was the lack of political will. The way forward according to him was to have greater involvement of private stakeholders in the Public Private Partnership for developing ports.

On the logistics front Capt N. K. Shah, Vice President of J. M. Baxi Group explained how value addition by ports that come under the maritime states could play an effective role in cost reduction. Providing another angle to the logistics scene Xerxes Master, Joint Managing Director of Master Group of Companies informed that when it comes to transporting Over Dimensional Cargo (ODC) of over 100 tons there were plenty of challenges freight forwarders had to face. The main reason being is that it is considered illegal to move heavy cargo on the highways as the bridges are not fit to carry more than 100 tons. Hence special permission is necessary making it time consuming to move ODC across several states which may take a few months to reach.

Detlef Kaufhold, Chief General Manager Logistics, Volkswagen India, appeared to be in a tight spot having to ship Volkswagen cars manufactured in India through Mumbai port. He blamed the port for its dusty environment, the lack of space, the threat from rodents, etc which was not ideal for shipping cars. Yet he could not give any satisfactory explanation as to why he prefers Mumbai port and why he did not ship his cars from other private ports that offer better and advanced facilities.

The port of Antwerp offers an excellent model for developing Indian ports according to Raj Khalid who its representative in India. He pointed out the several features of Antwerp port that could be replicated by Indian ports. He welcomed Indian ports to develop trade with his port.

Whatever be the situation but there exists immense opportunities in the ports of Maharashtra. These unlimited prospects were there for enterprising players in the maritime field to exploit according to Shakeel Kudroli, Director of Aquasail India. Leisure boating, marinas, water sports, etc., were in various stage of development. It was for the inventive stakeholder with deep pockets who could participate in this development process and make it big.      



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