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"Role of private sector essential in development of port terminals"

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LENDING AN EAR: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee (right) with CPI(M) MP Sitaram Yeuchuri at an international conference held in Chennai on Thursday as part of the Chennai port's 125th year celebrations. Photo: Shaju John
LENDING AN EAR: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee (right) with CPI(M) MP Sitaram Yeuchuri at an international conference held in Chennai on Thursday as part of the Chennai port's 125th year celebrations. Photo: Shaju John

Special Correspondent

Ports should be modernised to cope with demand fuelled by high economic growth: Pranab

CHENNAI: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday said the role of the private sector in development and management of terminal at ports on a Build-Operate-Transfer basis is essential.

"As there are limited funds available [with the Government] for development of ports, the role of private sector ... is essential," he told an international conference on ports and shipping, organised as part of the 125th year celebrations of the Chennai port.

Addressing a full house at the Madras University centenary hall, where the three-day conference is held, Mr. Mukherjee said one of the crucial issues to be addressed for increased efficiency of the port sector was to upgrade the quality of management services. An increase in the productivity of ports was already evident following the participation of the private sector.

Connectivity

Noting that the ports needed to be modernised and developed to cope with the demand fuelled by the high economic growth, he called for initiatives to improve the port-rail-road connectivity. "Technological advancement for port alone will not ensure high productivity unless its connectivity to the hinterland is properly developed."

The schemes formulated under the National Maritime Development Programme would help to create required capacities at the right time and right locations. The development of infrastructure that served the Chennai port together with the creation of additional capacity was bound to promote India's trade with East Asia and give a fillip to the country's `Look East' policy.

Mr. Mukherjee underlined the need for improved maritime security and strong linkage between ports and academic bodies that would benefit both.

Union Minister of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways T.R. Baalu said private sector participation in major ports was being encouraged mainly for development of commercially viable facilities. Such an approach was being followed to enable the ports to concentrate on creating common-user infrastructure.

He said the process of establishing a deep sea port at Kolkata, at an estimated cost of Rs.7,000 crore, had been initiated. It would be, however, difficult for India and other third world countries to comply with the International Maritime Organisation regulation stipulating a switch to double hull vessels by 2010.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) Member of Parliament Sitaram Yechuri said the proposed maritime university near Chennai should be developed on a large scale. Besides focussing on training the manpower, initiatives to ensure employment of the seafarers post-service were necessary. Calling for a shift in the infrastructure development from multi-disciplinary to trans-disciplinary, he said serious thought must be given to certain irregularities and anomalies in the tax structure.

Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation G.K. Vasan, State Planning Commission vice-chairman M. Naganathan, Member of Parliament C. Kuppusami and Madras University vice-chancellor S. Ramachandran spoke.

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