Centre plans to form consortium to invest in port facilities abroad

India's ambition to create maritime assets globally is taking firm shape with the Union Shipping Ministry planning to make select major ports and private investors part of what is temporarily being called ‘India Ports International,' a consortium that will pioneer Indian investments in port facilities worldwide.

The proposals that have been received for forming a corporate body to head international investments by India in the ports sector are being examined. Analysis of the proposals is expected to be completed in 2-3 months, said Union Shipping Secretary K. Mohandas here on Thursday.

Mr. Mohandas was here to attend the floating of India's first indigenous aircraft carrier, being built by Cochin Shipyard.

He said that the year 2011 was ‘annus horribilis' for the shipping sector in the country, owing largely to the worldwide economic recession. He said “The year 2011 has been the worst year in recent history” as he pointed to the continuing economic recession and excess capacity created on the waves of an economic boom prior to 2008. He said that India's flag-bearer Shipping Corporation of India had not done well and traffic at major ports had not grown as expected.

For the New Year, the shipping industry and the ports would be hoping for signs of recovery even as the government worked out incentives to prop up the shipping industry in a big way.

Though there is no encouraging signs from the ports sector, the government is steaming ahead with capacity addition at major ports. Even at the current levels of cargo throughput adequate capacities have not been created.

Even these measures have not yielded the expected results, projects have not progressed as planned because of some procedural problems. “We are looking to improve the approval and clearance procedures” to improve the situation, he said.

On the challenges being posed by State-owned and private ports to traditional major ports, Mr. Mohandas said the government's primary responsibility was to improve capacity and efficiency.

These two aspects are being addressed by the new generation ports. He said that non-major ports now handled up to one-third of the traffic throughput. This volume was expected to go up to 50 per cent by 2020.