- During the 17th Meeting of Maritime states Development Council (MSDC)—the apex advisory body for the development of the maritime sector—government announced a plan to develop a National Grid for Ports.
- Out of the 204 minor ports in the country, only 44 are functional; the National Grid for Ports (NGP) will connect the major and minor ports.
- Ports have been centres of India’s maritime activity in the past; the objective is to once again revive ports as important centres of sea trade.
- The objective is also to improve infrastructure and to reduce and finally eliminate human interface.
- Ministry of shipping is planning a wider expansion of port capacity across the country.
- The study on NGP will be different than ‘Sagarmala’ study.
Brief on Non-major ports:
‘Non-major’ ports are regulated by various state maritime boards. While major ports continue to attract the bulk of the traffic, several non-major ports have also started handling substantial volumes.
Non-major ports have grown in importance in 3-4 states mainly because of their cargo-rich hinterland and proactive maritime boards. Gujarat (70%)-> Andhra Pradesh (16%)-> Maharashtra (7%)-> Odisha (4%).
How will NGP be developed?
- The plan will be carried through cooperation between the Centre and State.
- The Centre will share findings with the States so that the non-functional minor ports can be developed and made functional.
- Port capacity will be expanded by implementing well-conceived infrastructure development projects.
- A host of measures will be undertaken to cut time and cost, digitization of processes, and to strongly address environment-related concerns.
- Specific cargo linked to the ports and the downstream industry will be identified for the revival of each port.
- Over 100 minor ports in India could be renewed and integrated with major ports in a new system.
- States also run barges along the coastal route. All States will implement a set of common rules to ease movement of barges across the coastal route.
- States will be free to develop it themselves or through public-private partnership ports.
- Government is considering giving deep sea vessels to fishermen.
- There are two layers of port security – one is to scan containers that are handled and second is to track the ships that enter and exit the ports. Government is planning to implement international standards of security in major and non-major ports.
- The coastal shipping and inland waterways sector are poised to play a vital role in the development of the country.
- The cost-effective and pollution-free water transport can reduce logistics costs in the country, making Indian goods more competitive in the global markets.
- NGP will help increasing the efficiency of port operations
- Developing connectivity between the major and minor ports can bring port-led development into the country.
- A NGP will ensure that cargo or agricultural produce located near the non-major ports can be shipped to major ports.
Time Release Study (TRS)
In order to boost global trade by weeding out bottlenecks in the clearance of goods at ports, the Department of Revenue is conducting India’s first national - Time Release Study (TRS) - a unique tool to measure the actual time required from the arrival of goods at port to their physical release. Mass clearances will reduce dwelling time, save money, and hence benefit all exporters, especially MSMEs. TRS will make the system uniform system and will make custom authorities more efficient.
PCSIx is a cloud-based new generation system that brings together the different stakeholders of the maritime sector on a single platform. This system enables trade to have an improved communication with the customs, as they have also embarked on Application Programming Interface (API) based architecture, thereby enabling real time interaction.
Given other seminal initiatives such as the Regional (Air) Connectivity Scheme, national plans for development of transportation & logistics infrastructure and the consequent progress, the proposed national grid of ports is an idea with potential. It, however, needs careful consideration, planning and phased implementation, most importantly through extensive engagement with the trade/stakeholders.