India's shipping elite gathered at the India Shipping Summit in Mumbai this week. Among the 400 particpants, high profile guests included Shri K. Mohandas, Sercretary, Ministry of Shipping, Government of India, S Hajara, Chairman and Managing Director, Shipping Corporation of India, Y Khatau, President, BIMCO & Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Varun Shipping and Spyros Polemis, Chairman, International Chamber of Shipping and Managing Director, Seacrest Shipping Co Ltd. among many others.
The seventh India Shipping Summit’s focus was to take fresh look at the maritime industry’s position, bringing together all key stakeholders and interested international parties for a high-level information exchange and the opening day delivered just that.
Shipping Secretary K. Mohandas opened the first session by admitting that no one could predict how long the shipping downturn would last, but underscored the fact that all the signs for infrastructure development in India were still positive.
"The India Maritime Agenda 2010-2020 document that we have prepared gives in detail our plans for the maritime sector during the current decade," Mr Mohandas said. "In the field of ports, for example, we are looking to develop cargo-handling capacity from the present 1.1 billion tonnes to 3.2 billion tonnes by the end of the decade. We also expect to finalise by year-end the coastal shipping policy that defines cabotage restrictions for foreign carriers."
In a powerful and reassuring speech, S. Hajara, Chairman and Managing Director, The Shipping Corporation of India Limited, reinforced India’s current maritime position and it’s vision for the next decade. He told delegates that India is better placed than many other nations to ride out any storm caused by deepening global financial crisis and that according to the IMF, India will remain an attractive place for foreigners to invest for long term.
In light of reports that India’s shipping ministry is asking the state owned company to stop its newbuilding expenditure, Mr Hajara, reassured delegates that there would certainly be more ship orders in the short and longer term.
Considering the ambitious projection of India’s exim trade growing to 1800 Billion USD by 2020, shipping in India has to grow and get ready for the next decade. He went on to add that there is also a strong push to modernise the major ports, improve rail-road connectivity with the ports, increase India’s tonnage and expand the country’s shibbuilding capability
Highlighting India’s maritime advantages with robust economic growth, availability of technical skills (particularly in repairs), it’s long coast line and strategic geographic location together with it’s appetite for large scale shipbuilding – Mr Hajara said all the right ingredients are present to fulfill the vision.
Mr Khatau, President, BIMCO & Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Varun Shipping, spoke on the growing role of India in the world maritime sector, continuing the theme of the many advantages India has, reiterated that India is heading for positive growth and that shipping is a key factor in the country’s supply chain.
He also made the point that whilst the industry was weathering the storms better than other sectors, “Shipping should not become the cash cow” for India’s development.
Speaking in the same session, Spyros Polemis in his capacity of Chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), told delegates that the Indian National Shipowners’ Association is amongst their larger associations, representing the shipping interests of one of the world’s most important emerging economies.
Focusing on one of the hottest current issues, piracy, Mr Polemis said “India and its seafarers have truly been in the firing line”. He went on to state that this is because India is a major maritime labour supply country and Indian seafarers are widely dispersed amongst the international fleet, as well as serving on board Indian flag tonnage. Sadly this means that Indian nationals have been especially exposed to the risk of attack and capture for ransom by violent Somali pirates.
On the face of it, the response from the international community, thanks to the Shipping Associations and IMO, has been impressive. However, the fundamental problem is the relatively small number of navy ships that are committed to protecting shipping – Mr Polemis likened this to “a band aid on a gaping wound”.
He summarised by saying “The shipping industry and the world community are very concerned about the lack of decisive action by governments. I believe the time for talking has passed, we need action not words. In calling for the decisive and rapid eradication of piracy I am doing no more than supporting what is already contained in the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. We need:-
- Navies to act robustly against the pirates.
- All motherships, big and small, to be immobilised.
- All suspected pirates to be delivered to a court of law and if found guilty to be subject to the full weight of the law.
- Pirate bases ashore, to be targeted for action.
- All hostages and their ships currently in Somalia, to be freed.
- United Nations to arrange to provide, armed military guards, either as part of a Blue Beret force or as VPDs (Vessel Protection Detachment Units), that many independent nations can volunteer to provide.
- All vulnerable merchant ships transiting the AWRP (Additional War Risk Premium) area, to receive armed military guards.
- All nations in the region to agree and to assist in the embarkation and disembarkation of the AMG’s (Armed Military Guards).
The world community cannot tolerate the abuse and the killing of seafarers of any nationality. This has to stop now. The pirates must get the message that we have reached the end of our tether, and that any act of piracy will be severely dealt with”.
Notes to the editor
• The India Shipping Summit ran from 10-12 October 2011 in Mumbai
• The event is jointly organised by Seatrade and NHST Events and the 2011 event will be the 7th in the series
• For more details visit www.indiashippingsummit.com or please contact John Foreman, Head of Marketing at email@example.com or Jon Chaplin, Managing Director, NHST Events at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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