Kochi’s aspirations of hosting India’s second maritime university remains on paper more than five years after the Parliamentary Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture recommended the setting up of maritime universities at five centres in the country, including one in the city.

And, shipping industry insiders here have blamed the State government’s failure to exert enough pressure on the Union government after identifying sufficient land for the university in 2011 near Kochi and offering to bring Karnataka and Goa within the jurisdiction of the proposed university as a gesture reflecting its national character and regional unity of States in terms of higher education.

Minister for Shipping and Ports K. Babu, however, told The Hindu on Tuesday that the Union Shipping Ministry had taken a stand that the teething troubles of India’s first maritime university, set up as per the recommendations of the parliamentary committee in Chennai in November 2008, had to be overcome before pressing ahead with other universities.

A senior shipping industry official, now retired, alleged that there was a fear among established players in maritime training about losing students if a new university came up in Kochi. The Union government appears to be playing into their hands, he said, as he claimed that the vast majority of the students undergoing maritime training across India came from Kerala.

Union Shipping Secretary K. Mohandas, one of the brains behind India’s maritime agenda 2010-20, said on Tuesday that the current set up in which a single university (now in Chennai) controlling campuses in different cities had proved to be bit of a failure.

He felt that independent units like the Indian Institutes of Technology with each centre having autonomy would do well in providing high quality education in the maritime sector.

Indian maritime university has a campus in Kochi, established in 2010, which has been offering courses in MBA in port and shipping management, B.Sc. in ship-building, repair and diploma in nautical science and PG diploma in marine engineering.

Jose Paul, former member of the executive council of Indian Maritime University, said that Kerala deserved to have a full-fledged maritime university given its strong maritime tradition. He also said that Kerala students were now leaving its cities in large numbers to take maritime studies and training in various places like Chennai and Mumbai.

According to him, a full-fledged university will help the poorer sections of society, especially from the fishermen community in Kerala, get high quality maritime education within the State.

K.A. Simon, director of the Kunhali Markakkar School of Marine Engineering, under Cochin University of Science and Technology, said that a maritime university in Kochi would do well and held out great scope for the future.

He said that 3,000 students had opted for the B.Tech Marine Engineering course at the Kunhali Marakkar School, which has only 80 seats.

A senior official in maritime training in the city said that maritime training schools have had a brief lull these last few years because of the downturn in shipping business since 2008. He said that these are cyclical phenomenon like the period between 1982 and 1985 after which the situation improved substantially.

Mr. Mohandas too pointed to the recession in the global shipping industry over the past five years. Demand for on-ship professionals had come down. The situation has been the same for the Indian shipping scene. But he stressed India’s potential to contribute to the seafaring community in the world.

The Indian Maritime Agenda 2010-20 aimed to substantially raise India’s contribution to the world seafarers’ community by 2020.

The heart of the agenda is that “India can aspire to strong growth in Officers and Ratings by 2020. The share of high quality officers can increase from 6.3 per cent in 2009 to nine per cent in 2020, whereas Ratings could see a moderate growth from 7.5 per cent in 2009 to 9 per cent in 2020.” This implies an additional 65,000 officers and 45,000 ratings. This involves the annual capacity for training from 5,600 to 15,000 officers and 4,600 to 9,000 Ratings.

According to the data available for 2010, India contributes less than 5 per cent of the world seafaring officers totalling 6,24,000. India’s share of Ratings is 3.56 per cent of the total 7,47,000. The Philippines has a share of 12.5 per cent in the officers’ category and 22 per cent in the Ratings category of seafarers.

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