The ports on the east can benefit from India’s increasing trade with China and other Southeast Asian nations , but the eastern States have to emulate Gujarat in developing ports that will utilise the emerging opportunities.

This was the conclusion arrived at by many speakers at the East Coast Maritime Business Summit organised here on Friday and Saturday by the Hyderabad-based magazine, Maritime Gateway.

Although the performance of the major ports on the East and West was more or less even there was a vast difference in the number of non-major ports and their volumes on the East coast and the West. The West coast, especially Gujarat, was far ahead of the east, and the gap should be bridged with concerted efforts by the eastern states, the speakers pointed out.

Visakhapatnam Port Chairman Ajeya Kallam said the port had taken up several projects on a public-private partnership basis , which were currently being executed at a cost of more than Rs 3,000 crore. He said, in the next two phases, an additional Rs 10,000 crore more would be invested to increase capacity to 130 million tonnes a year by 2016-17 from 70 million tonnes now. Shipping Corporation of India CMD Sabyasachi Hajara said infrastructure should be developed and transaction costs brought down substantially for Indian ports to be competitive. He urged other States to follow Gujarat’s lead.

He also said a national integrated logistics policy was needed, adding “many policy interventions are needed to develop inland waterways and coastal shipping.”

Krishna B. Kotak, the Chairman of J.M Baxi & Co, said the Union Government had not sufficiently developed port-related infrastructure. As a result, many investors were wary of investing in Indian ports.

Former Union Shipping Secretary K. Mohan Das said funds would not be a problem if the port projects were viable. “There may be some temporary difficulties now because of the global recession. But things will improve, and I am confident of a great future for the eastern ports,” he added.

(This article was published on September 22, 2012)
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