Daily Answer Writing And Mentorship Program
Q: The government’s directive to ports to develop master plans for achieving ‘mega port’ status by 2047 prompts a discussion on port challenges and solutions to advance India’s blue economy. (15 Marks, 250 Words)
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A mega port earns its label through cargo volume, economic value, or spatial extent. These ports drive the ‘blue economy,’ using ocean resources for growth, livelihoods, and ecosystem health. India aims to make all ports mega by 2047. However, significant challenges persist:
- Underutilized Capacity: Despite handling most cargo, ports operate below capacity. For instance, major ports with a 1500 MTPA capacity handled only around 670 MT in 2020-21.
- Infrastructure Issues: Ports grapple with low productivity, extended turnaround and pre-berthing times, and high freight costs.
- Digital Gaps: Absence of an integrated online portal hampers information exchange among stakeholders, as isolated IT solutions lack interaction.
- Logistical Bottlenecks: Inadequate expressway links and high fuel costs hamper hinterland transport efficiency.
- Labour Inefficiencies: Local unskilled labor affects overall productivity and cargo handling.
- Competitiveness Challenges: High taxation and compliance burdens raise operational costs for Indian vessels.
- Investment Shortfalls: Despite incentives, cumulative FDI in maintenance and port operation was only $1.63 billion from 2000 to 2021.
Addressing these issues requires:
- Dredging Sector Openness: Attract international players to maintain port draft depth and cater to larger vessels.
- Sagarmala Program Acceleration: Expedite projects enhancing port connectivity, establishing coastal economic zones (CEZs), and building new ports.
- Cost Reduction Initiatives: Streamline hinterland-to-port goods movement to cut costs.
- Digital Integration: Develop the ‘National Portal for Cargo Facilitation (NPCF)’ to unite stakeholders.
- Technology Adoption: Embrace technologies like big data and AI, learning from successful global ports for efficiency improvements.
- Sector Liberalization: Flexible procedural, operational, and financial measures to enhance competitiveness.
- Collaborative Efforts: Encourage cooperation among terminal operators, ship owners, exporters, and importers to meet sector demands.
In a global context, India must adapt, staying competitive by nurturing flexibility and cohesion across stakeholders to meet evolving challenges.