KOCHI: Director General of Shipping Lakshmi Venkatachalam called on the maritime community in the country to build a sustainable legal framework for coastal shipping to take off in a big way in the country.
The shipping directorate would fully back development of coastal shipping, she said at the inauguration of a national seminar here on Wednesday on ‘Indian River-Sea Vessels: A Holistic Approach’, organised by the Kochi chapter of The Institute of Marine Engineers (India).
Ms. Venkatachalam said that the States held the key to development of the legal framework and pointed out that the progress in its formulation was not uniform with some State lagging behind others.
For coastal shipping to grow to its potential we had to build the linkages, she said, as she also opined that at present it would not be possible to get businesses to use the coastal waters to transport their goods unless it was convenient to them. If the shortest distance between two points was through the sea, businesses would use them.
With the carbon footprint aspect yet to be factored in, road and rail transport appeared to be cheap and fast, she said.
However, when the carbon issue is factored in, shipping and water transport stood to gain substantially. She said that more rivers had to be made navigable and that more points needed to be opened up to boost coastal transport of cargo.
She said that road infrastructure was drawing large investments, including World Bank assistance. Perhaps it was time that Indian got similar assistance in developing its coastal shipping and inland waterway transport.
President of the Indian Shipowners’ Association and Chairman and Managing Director of the Shipping Corporation of India S. Hajara, who was the chief guest at the inaugural, said that while safety was paramount he was for some relaxation for coastal ships.
Mr. Hajara also said that there was always an unfair comparison between the road/rail transport and water transport.
Chairman of the Kochi branch of The Institute of Marine Engineers M. P. John welcomed the gathering. M. V. Ramamurthy, President of The Institute of Marine Engineers delivered the presidential address.
G. S. Bhalla, Chairman of Indian Coastal Conference; Mangala P. B. Yapa, Managing Director of Colombo Dockyard PLC and M. Jitendran, Chairman and Managing Director of Cochin Shipyard Limited offered felicitations.