India and China were in the forefront in maritime trade in the fourteenth century at a time when other nations were lagging behind and since then India has ignored her maritime interests due to various factors and "today we are near the bottom of the table", according to Visakhapatnam port chairman Ajeya Kallam.

He was speaking here on Friday at the port Deputy Conservator's Office on the occasion of the National Maritime Day. "China has fared much better and today it is the largest shipbuilding nation in the world. India stands fifth with an insignificant percentage contribution to the world shipping capacities," he lamented.

After Independence, policy-makers had ignored maritime trade, he said and added that investment in the sector could have created many jobs. "Waterways are not only the cheapest form of transport but also save a lot of energy and cause minimum pollution," he said.

He said, "It is unfortunate that due to our policy short-sightedness, we do not have shipping capacities required to carry our strategically important cargo like petroleum. We have to depend on foreign carriers."

VPT Deputy Chairman G.V.L. Satya Kumar said the Visakhapatnam port had recorded negative growth for the first time in its history during 2012-13, because of ongoing expansion works resulting in reduced cargo-handling capacities. He said the sacrifice was essential to ensure that "the port has a future and is ready to meet the emerging challenges."

VPT Deputy Conservator S. Mathur, Amit Bhargava of Indian Register of Shipping, VPT chief vigilance officer Mujib Pasha Shaik, Commandant CISF K.K. Chaturvedi and senior representative of business Pattabhiramayya participated in the function.

A fibre glass pilot boat, O.B. Rattanberry, was launched on the occasion. April 5 is celebrated as National Maritime Day to mark the launch of the first commercial voyage by an Indian ship in modern history when steamship Loyalty set sail from Bombay on this day in 1919. Since 1964, this day is also celebrated as the National Maritime Day and also called the Merchant Navy Flag Day.

sarma.rs@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on April 5, 2013)
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