It denies cargo movement in India by a foreign vessel

The shipping industry is upping the ante for relaxation of ‘cabotage’ laws denying movement of cargo from one port to another in India by a foreign merchant vessel.

This has in fact become detrimental to the efforts to develop Visakhapatnam port into a gateway port for South East Asia. Despite phenomenal growth in container traffic, the market sluggishness notwithstanding, it is felt that once relaxation is done, it will give a fillip to transportation of various high-valued cargoes.

The trade believes that cabotage laws should be applicable to domestic cargo but by enforcing it to Export-Import (EXIM), shipping lines are forced to move containers from one Indian port to another Indian port via an international transhipment hub port like Colombo, Hong Kong and Bangkok.

Capt. Sriram Ravi Chander, COO of Visakha Container Terminal told The Hindu that the cabotage laws are leading to double handling forcing the clients to shell down double the cost.

Foreign transhipment hubs are earning revenue and enjoying a higher throughput by handling the Indian EXIM containers and empty containers. In a welcome move, the Ministry of Shipping is planning to relax cabotage restrictions in respect of Vallarpadam transhipment terminal. It will help towards transhipping Indian cargo at Indian ports thus saving valuable foreign exchange.

“There is a case in point to extend the proposed relaxation to Visakhapatnam, which is emerging as a container hub,” said general manager of a leading ship liner.

In the Maritime Agenda for 2020, the Ministry of Shipping has projected the growth potential of Visakhapatnam Port and envisaged development of the port as a hub port. The port management through various initiatives is spending nearly Rs.14,000 crore to achieve a cargo handling capacity of 149 million tonne by 2020-21 and set up a satellite port at Bheemunipatnam at a cost of Rs.2,000 crore.

Visakhapatnam is the only port in the entire East Coast which has a natural depth of 16.5 metres for operating a container terminal with world class facilities.