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Mumbai, October 1, 2011
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said a good transport infrastructure was critical not only for increasing the pace of the country's economic development but also for making its growth processes more inclusive.
"We should look seriously I suggest, at coastal shipping and the development of inland waterways as environment friendly and fuel efficient modes of transport for optimizing the overall logistics cost and reaching the hinterland of our country," he said in his address at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) here.
Dr Singh said there was need to accelerate the pace of expansion of the port sector, particularly through public private partnerships.
"We need to accelerate the pace of expansion of the port sector, particularly through public private partnerships. We also need to improve the draught in our ports by increasing the pace of dredging. In inland waterways we need to promote investments, particularly in the remote areas of our country, like in the North East," he said.
Dr Singh said there was also a need for seamless integration of various modes of transportation and therefore for the coordinated development of the shipping industry, land based logistics and the port sector.
He said much greater attention needed to be paid to ensuring good road and rail connectivity to the country's ports, especially the new minor ports coming up in the private sector.
He said the Government had set up the National Transport Development Policy Committee under the chairmanship of Dr Rakesh Mohan and expressed confidence that it would provide useful suggestions for the future growth of the sector in years to come.
The Prime Minister said India`s growing economy with its increasing need for transportation of raw materials, semi-finished and finished products offered excellent opportunities for its maritime sector. He urged the Indian shipping and logistics industry to make full use of the emerging opportunities that are now on the horizon.
"As our maritime sector, including shipping, ports, shipbuilding and ship-repair, is of vital significance to our economy, we should collectively make every effort possible for the growth of this vital sector. However, we should also ensure adequate Indian control over our maritime activity, for reasons of maritime security. In the context of India`s growing international trade and increasing energy demand and dependence on global energy markets, there is an urgent need to further develop our national fleet. I call upon the Indian shipping companies to pursue their growth plans in the right earnest and in tune with the global economic environment," he said.
Dr Singh praised the SCI for transforming itself, in the past half century, from a small shipping line to the largest shipping company of the country.
He noted that the growth of India`s merchant marine sector had been led by the SCI and the company had also been instrumental in establishing a significant Indian presence in the global maritime arena.
"I find it particularly commendable that apart from being the largest, the SCI is also the most diversified Indian shipping company operating in varied shipping sectors and carrying a wide range of cargo such as oil, coal, iron ore, food grains, gas, steel and containers. Indeed, the SCI has been a pioneer in several areas. It is the only Indian shipping company providing long haul container services to international markets. It is also the only Indian shipping company to have ventured into the highly specialized area of LNG transportation, in joint ventures with leading international shipping companies. I congratulate the SCI and its management and staff for these splendid achievements," he said.
Dr Singh also noted that, with its training initiatives, SCI had contributed greatly to the growth of India`s maritime sector by creating a pool of maritime talent.
"Indian seafarers have played an important role in India gaining recognition as a maritime country. Today, seafarers from India are highly sought after by shipping companies the world over for their skill and diligence. The maritime industry should further invest in attracting more talent to this vital sector and also in upgrading the talent already available in the industry through training and development initiatives," he said.
Referring to the problem of piracy in the Arabia Sea and the Indian Ocean, much beyond the piracy-infested areas of Gulf of Aden, he said this posed a serious threat by putting at risk a large number of Indian seafarers and ships as also the country's seaborne trade.
"Any industry can thrive only in an atmosphere of safety and security. Incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships are a cause of concern to all of us and to the shipping industry in particular," he stressed.
"Our Navy, our Coast Guard and the shipping companies are putting up a concerted effort in close co-ordination with other international agencies to deal with this menace. But I suggest more needs to be done in this area to provide safety and security," he said.