MoPSW gears up for Ramayana cruise, more ship recycling

After navigating pandemic shocks, MoPSW sets sail for Ramayana cruise, increased ship recycling works

The cruise, which will also be the maiden luxury cruise service on the holy river of Saryu, will provide a mesmerising 'Ramcharitmanas Tour'

Artistic impression of proposed Ramayana cruise vessel. Credit: pib.gov.in

As the government navigated shockwaves of the coronavirus pandemic this year, Indian ports facilitated more than one lakh crew changes as well as extended various regulatory concessions for stakeholders and going into 2020, a Ramayana cruise and increased recycling of ships are on the horizon.

From the shipping ministry being rechristened as Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW) to initiatives for boosting inland water transport to a raft of policy measures, waves of development efforts hit the shores in 2020.

After the launch of the country's first seaplane service -- from the Statue of Unity, Kevadiya to Sabarmati River in Gujarat -- in October by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ramayana cruise on the Saryu river in Ayodha is in the works. The cruise, which will also be the maiden luxury cruise service on the holy river, will provide a mesmerising 'Ramcharitmanas Tour'.

In 2020, the National Authority for Ships Recycling was established and the country also bid adieu to INS Virat.

Ports, Shipping and Waterways Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told PTI that India aspires to grab at least 50 per cent of the global ship recycling business after enactment of the legislation for recycling of ships.

The country's share in the ship recycling business is around 30 per cent.

"We expect maximum vessels to come to India in 2020-21 for recycling," Mandaviya said.

Currently, India recycles 70 lakh gross tonnage of ships per annum while that of Bangladesh is 68 lakh gross tonnage. Pakistan recylces 37 lakh gross tonnage of ships and that of China is 34 lakh gross tonnage per year.

"These four countries account for 90 per cent of the ships recycled globally. Post enactment of the Recycle Act, India eyes 50 per cent of the global share as many countries will be sending ships here after India ratified the global convention," the minister said.

During the year, the ministry said it facilitated more than 1,00,000 crew change at Indian ports and through charter flights. "It is the highest number of crew changes in the world".

Crew change consists of replacing one of the ship's crew members with another one and involves sign-on the ships and sign-off the ships procedures. Maritime sector is among the worst hit ones due to the pandemic. Despite the challenges, Indian ports were operational and provided essential services while cargo handling activities declined.

The government issued various advisories for relief to stakeholders, including non-charging of demurrage and other penalties/ charges. It was also decided to grant compensation of Rs 50 lakh in the event of loss of life due to coronavirus to the dependent members/ legal heirs of the port employees of major ports.

Among other initiatives, the ministry made certain services online, including ship registration and charter licensing work.

Seeking to develop the country's coastline, around 14,500 kilometres of potentially navigable waterways and strategic location on key international maritime trade routes have been identified. There are 504 such projects under the Sagarmala programme. These include 211 port modernisation projects, 199 port connectivity projects, 32 port-led industrialisation projects and 62 coastal community development projects.

These projects are expected to unlock opportunities for port-led development and mobilise more than Rs 3.57 lakh crore worth of infrastructure investments.

In November, the Prime Minister inaugurated the Ro-Pax terminal at Hazira and flagged off the Ro-Pax ferry service between Hazira and Ghogha in Gujarat with a new maritime connectivity has been established between Bhavnagar and Surat of Gujarat. The service between Hazira and Ghogha will shorten the journey from 10-12 hours to 3-4 hours.

The Major Ports Authority (MPA) Bill, 2020 has been passed by Lok Sabha and the proposed law seeks to provide greater autonomy for major ports.

Major Inland Water Transport (IWT) projects are under construction under the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) on National Waterway-1 (NW-1) (river Ganga) from Haldia to Varanasi.

The shipping ministry waived waterway usage charges for three years considering the government's vision to promote inland waterways as a supplementary, eco-friendly and cheaper mode of transport.

"The decision is estimated to increase the inland waterway traffic movement to 110 MT in 2022-23 from 72 MMTin 2019-20. It will benefit the economic activities and development in the region," the ports ministry said.

To enhance the access and establish alternative waterway connectivity to the North East through Bangladesh, new initiatives and measures are in progress.

On the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol route, dredging has commenced between Ashuganj and Zakiganj (295 km), and Sirajganj and Daikhawa (175 km) in Bangladesh by sharing the cost on 80:20 basis -- India will bear 80 per cent of the costs while the neighbouring country will take care of the rest. Cruise movement have also commenced between India and Bangladesh.

On the shipping front, the government has reduced GST from 18 per cent to 5 per cent on bunker fuel for both coastal vessels and foreign going vessels.

The shipping ministry is aiming to promote Indian shipbuilding industry and is also having discussions with some leading countries for 'Make in India' shipbuilding initiatives.

The year also saw launch of direct cargo ferry service between India and Maldives. A world class National Maritime Heritage Complex is on the anvil at Lothal, Gujarat.