India beckons investors in transformative $82 billion maritime growth strategy

04, Mar. 2021

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at the inauguration of the ‘Maritime India Summit 2021’ via video conferencing in New Delhi on March 2, 2021. He urged global players to make India a preferred investment destination to help achieve the country's Maritime India Vision 2030.(PTI)
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at the inauguration of the ‘Maritime India Summit 2021’ via video conferencing in New Delhi on March 2, 2021. He urged global players to make India a preferred investment destination to help achieve the country's Maritime India Vision 2030.(PTI)

By Atul Ranjan and Celine Chen

NEW DELHI, NNA - India is welcoming foreign investments with projects worth about $31 billion as it plans to spend $82 billion by 2035 to grow a comprehensive blue economy covering port and waterway enhancements to tourism and renewable energy.

The Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways has identified 574 projects to be implemented till 2035 under the Sagarmala program to promote port-driven economic development. Dozens have already been launched since 2015.

India has also listed 400 projects for foreign investors as the country plans to boost revenue potential of its long coastline of over 7,500 km and inland waterways to boost trade, industrial development, businesses, transportation and tourism.

The transformative push towards a blue economy under the Maritime India Vision 2030 roadmap will see a significant increase in the use of clean renewable energy in the maritime sector and the sustainable development of waterways. Seaplane services will be enhanced while tourism around lighthouses and facilities for cruise ships will be developed.

This holistic maritime master plan is expected to generate 2 million jobs and spillover effects.

In his speech at the opening of the Maritime India Summit on Tuesday (March 2), Prime Minister Narendra Modi encouraged foreign investors to take advantage of the numerous opportunities awaiting them.

"India’s long coastline awaits you. Let India be your preferred trade destination. Let Indian ports be your port of call for trade and commerce,” Modi said, adding that India is "very serious about growing in the maritime sector and emerging as a leading blue economy of the world.”

On how port developments will support businesses, he said, "Along with efficiency, lots of work is also happening to boost connectivity. We are integrating our ports with coastal economic zones, port-based smart cities and industrial parks. This will anchor industrial investments and promote global manufacturing activity near ports."

Already, maritime transport accounts for 95 percent of the country’s trade by volume and 70 percent by value. The Indian ports and shipping industry play a crucial role in supporting growth in trade and commerce.

The new projects include continuing modernization of ports, development of new ports and coastal communities, enhancing port connectivity and port-linked industrialization.

In recent years, a total of 121 projects worth 302.28 billion rupees were completed by September 2019.

In addition, 201 projects worth over 3,090 billion rupees are being implemented, according to the shipping ministry, which was recently renamed to include ports and waterways to reflect its more encompassing portfolio.

India has 12 major ports and 205 small and intermediate ports administered by the central and state governments.

Apart from the modernization of these ports, there will be six new mega ports to cope with rising demand for port services.

Three of these huge ports with world-class facilities are being built at Vadhavan in Konkan, Paradip in Odisha and Kandla in Gujarat.

The capacity of major ports has risen from 870 million tons in 2014 to 1,550 million tons now. Judging by the growth pace so far, it is expected to rise to 2,500 million tons by 2025. However, the government wants to accelerate it by increasing capacity to 3,300 million tons by then under the new plan.

“This productivity gain not only helps our ports, but also boosts the overall economy by making our products more competitive,” said Modi.

He noted that Indian ports have already improved key services such as direct-port delivery and entry, as well as easy data flow for the port community and shorter waiting time for inbound and outbound cargo.

Modi said the government is also investing heavily in storage facilities at the ports and plug-and-play infrastructure to attract industries to port areas.

He added that the country also wants to develop domestic ship building and repair businesses too, with repair clusters emerging along both the eastern and western coasts by 2022.

Domestic ship recycling industry will also be promoted to create "wealth from waste" while sustainable dredging will be carried out.

On the use of renewable energy, India is in the process of installing solar and wind-based power systems at all the major ports. The aim is to increase renewable usage to more than 60 percent by 2030 across Indian ports.

India is also prioritizing the development of domestic waterways as they are found to be a cost effective and environment friendly way of transporting freight.

It plans to operationalize 23 waterways with modern infrastructure by 2030. River cruise terminals and jetties are now being developed on five national waterways. Steps are being taken to launch urban water transport systems in Kochi, Mumbai, Gujarat, and Goa.

The Eastern Waterways for connectivity with neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar will be strengthened to facilitate more regional trade.

Said PM Modi, "Ours is a government that is investing in waterways in a way that was never seen before."

Meanwhile, water-dromes at 16 locations are also being built to enable sea-plane operations. In fact, a seaplane service between Kevadia and Sabarmati Riverfront in the western state of Gujarat is already running after its launch last October.

To boost tourism, new terminals to serve domestic and international cruise ships will be built at selected ports by 2023. In addition, the coastal areas around 78 lighthouses will be developed as landmark attractions for tourism.