Despite a long coastline of 7,517 km, India’s coastal shipping moves just 15 per cent of the local freight. The cargo that is mainly moved through coastal shipping at present constitutes bulk and break bulk commodities including thermal coal, crude oil, iron ore and cement.

In 2013-14, the country’s major ports handled 556 MT of cargo. Of this, roughly 19 per cent was coastal traffic.

In the European Union countries, coastal shipping has a 43 per cent share in cargo traffic. As compared to many of the developed countries, India’s coastal shipping potential remains significantly underutilised.

Coastal shipping is considered an important component in the development of domestic industry and trade, primarily due to its environment friendly, cost-effective and fuel efficient services.

According to government estimates, diversion of 5 per cent of cargo transportation to a waterborne mode can result in an annual saving of Rs. 20 billion and a reduction of 6 per cent in harmful chemicals and pollutants.

There are several prominent coastal shipping routes in the country. These include Chennai to Chittagong/Yangon through Haldia/Kolkata, Pipavav/Mundra to Kochi and other ports used for movement of southbound cargo, Kolkata up to Kandla and Bhavnagar used for carrying coal as well as inland and coastal movement routes in and around Goa.

Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants and coal cargoes formed about 73 per cent of the coastal cargo handled at the country’s major ports, with Ennore, Paradip, Tuticorin, Cochin and Visakhapatnam ports handling 50 per cent of the traffic.

Coastal shipping in India is plagued by a host of challenges. The biggest hurdle faced in coastal movement of cargo remains the lack of dedicated berthing facilities at ports leading to long waiting times. An inefficient cargo handling system further adds to the problem causing high turnaround time for vessels.

The Ministry of Shipping is now initiating various measures to fully realise the country’s coastal shipping potential. It has framed guidelines to ensure priority berthing for coastal vessels at major ports. Also, proposals are being drawn to increase the number of dedicated coastal cargo berths and improve the cargo handling system and warehousing facilities at ports.

Recently, the Ministry of Shipping invited Expression of Interest from entrepreneurs for development of coastal shipping berths at any of the 12 major ports or any other location along the coast on public-private partnership basis. The berths will be equipped to handle cargo specific needs such as coal, iron ore, fertiliser, cement, steel coils, pellets, timber, project cargo, containers, automobiles and liquid, based on regional requirements.

As per the EoI document, the private developer will be responsible for development, financing, construction, operations and maintenance of the project at the landlord port. The project components include berth of 250-300 m. length, cargo handling equipment, backup area with parking facilities, warehouse, rail siding, port buildings and utilities, any other necessary equipment, electrical systems, water supply and disposal, and IT system.

The last date for submitting EoI is November 15.

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