Centre may consider fixing minimum distance between two ports

Mamuni Das | Updated on October 17, 2019

The Government is toying with the idea of stipulating a minimum distance between two ports as part of its efforts to ensure that ports in the country remain viable financially. This is likely to get reflected in a new Bill that may be introduced in the ensuing Winter or next Budget session of Parliament.

“How far should ports be located from each other? That’s one of the decisions that the Centre needs to take, as per the proposed Indian Ports Act (IPA) that the Government wants to bring in,” according to sources.

The Bill empowers the Centre to fix the minimum distance between the ports or alter the limits of any port. The proposed law also enables the ports to provide minimum quality standards or minimum facilities; simple regulatory and administrative mechanism; fix charges, tariff, etc. Broadly, the Indian Ports Bill aims to enable sustainable growth and development of all ports in India in line with international maritime obligations.

Landlord model

It also aims to help the ports move towards a landlord model, where the port authority will act like a landowner and, slowly, the government will retreat from operating ports.

Currently, India has 13 major ports under the Centre and 44 functional non-major ports under the States. In fact, some of the non-major ports — like Mundra (Gujarat), Krishnapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and Dhamra (Odisha) — also compete with the Centre’s ports in West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

The stance of State governments on this clause — which allows the Centre to fix the distance between ports — is still unclear.

Empowering ports

“The Bill is likely to be tabled in Parliament in the Winter session,” Shipping Minister Mansukhlal Mandaviya said in a conference on Tuesday. “We would like the ports to be empowered so that they do not have to come to the Centre for their decisions,” Mandaviya added.

A few years ago, the Shipping Ministry had floated a similar proposal stating that ports should be located at least a certain distance apart. However, that move subsequently went into deep-freeze, with the Ministry leaving this decision to the Competition Commission of India.

Published on October 17, 2019

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