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Goa’s shipping industry still off-course

Goa’s shipping and logistics industry remains in choppy waters, going by the viewpoint expressed by industry during the just concluded Indo-French Conclave 2019, finds out Shoma Patnaik

With excellent network of inland waterways comprising of 255 km of rivers, canals and estuaries, the state’s natural advantages in shipping and maritime trade is perhaps the best vis-à-vis other states  in India.

Goa has a rich history of trade across seas.  Transport using ports and inland waterways in the past was thriving and it contributed significantly to economic activity in the hinterland.

But today, it looks like most of the natural advantages are lost. Less endowed states are moving ahead in sea freight while local waterborne trade is stuck in shallow waters.  Ground level check reveals that, Goan shipping companies have not recovered from the closure of iron ore mining industry but alongside made slow progress in developing other areas of cargo. Further companies have to contend with poor infrastructure and very little government push in resolving matters. 

Reflecting the lackluster situation, stakeholders during a panel discussion on shipping and logistics at the Indo-French Conclave 2019 that took place in Candolim, had few good things to say about the topic.

Panelists comprising of Ugo Vincent, managing director of shipping company, CMA-CGM, Captain Ram Iyer, Seahorse Ship Agencies, Delano Furtado, senior partner, Trilegal and Anthony Gaskell, Sentran Shipping,  revealed that, Goa’s maritime scenario is depressing and could get worse in future if measures are not implemented to put things on course.

Panelists looked at the situation in the Indian shipping and logistics industry as a whole. But given that, the setting was Goa, they did an expert appraisal of the shortcomings in the system to the audience made up of investors and local businessmen.

Captain Iyer, said that, Goa has a lot to offer to investors in the shipping and logistics industry if they are looking at enjoying quality living. “The quality of life here is very high but with the various changes that have happened over the last few years Goa port is literally lagging behind other ports in India,” he said.

Referring to the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) he said that, iron ore exports was its main cargo in the past. But in the absence of the cargo (iron ore) the port is given way drastically. “In terms of container cargo moving in-and-out of the state, the port gets only one container vessel calling in every week. It is a 1800 TEU vessel that transports no more than 500 boxes in and out. Most of the cargo of perishables or even the movement of pharmaceutical products from the state goes by land to JNPT, Mumbai. This is because the MPT does not have a palate of offering like JNPT or other competing ports,” he disclosed.

According to the Captain the state needs serious impetus to get back in the present port scenario of India. Because the lack of exports of iron ore cargo the port has taken a serious hit downwards, he pointed out. 

Gaskell stuck a moderate note. He said that, post iron ore exports decreasing drastically the MPT has started looking at other cargo. “The right moves have been made but things are moving slowly and the port needs to be active in looking at other cargo,” Gaskell pointed out that, Goa has number of estuaries and there is huge potential from jetties.  “At present the state only has one active private jetty and more need to come up,” he said. Gaskell added that, the switch in transport of commodity from road and rail to waterways will only occur when it is feasible.

Panelist Furtado, said that, the state port (MPT) is not in sync with the rest of India which is why more than 50 per cent of the freight movement originating from local industry continues to take place by road. All the panelists pointed out that, the shipping industry today is not just about ships. It comprises the entire logistics made up of cold chains and warehouses. They said that, the Goan logistics scenario is also underdeveloped.

Shipping company, CME-CGM, managing director, Vincent, said that, the MPT has serious infrastructure issues. “There is no highway connection to the port and no fixed window for containerized vessel. Also it is difficult for container vessel to get custom clearance at the port.”  He said that, boosting of waterborne cargo from the state would require the efforts of everybody. “All the stakeholders including government and industry will have to come together. At the end of the day it requires quite a lot of efforts,” said Vincent.

The panel discussion also touched on the topic of green shipping, which is about reducing energy consumption and environmental pollutants generated by ships. Technologies for green shipping was discussed and it was revealed that through green measures shipping companies can reduce nitrogen emission significantly.

However panelists pointed out that, to ensure greener, efficient shipping and reduction of logistic costs by water transport it is necessary for a unified solution to the hurdles facing Goan shipping. They said that, the shipping and logistics industry has the potential to support startups and create employment. “The revival of the industry must be tackled with passion so that it succeeds,” said Furtado.

The Indo-French Conclave held at Novotel Hotel, Candolim was organised by the Indo-French Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IFCCI) in association with the Embassy of France. The CII-Goa was the local partner for the conclave which focused on key sectors such as shipping and logistics, aerospace and defence and green technology for smart city. The Conclave aimed at getting French investors to India and also Goa where several Indo-French companies are currently functioning.

Shipping and logistic are thrust sectors in Goa Investment Policy 2014

 The Goa Investment Policy 2014 gives lot of importance to development of ports, waterways, private terminals and jetties. It says that, logistics time and cost can be significantly reduced by using the vast inland waterway network. “Existing underutilized jetties are proposed to be upgraded to handle break-bulk cargo while new jetties are being planned at Borim and Amona to handle containers. There are plans for several other jetties at various locations under consideration. To encourage construction of private terminals,jetties, landing areas, the government will offer a single window clearance through the Captain of Ports,” says the policy.   

    It adds that, the Captain of Ports will also assist the investor in getting relevant clearances from the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority and Goa State Pollution Control Board.  Further the state will set up the Goa Maritime Board to administer all the measures. So far none of the policy measures have been implemented and the state’s progress in developing coastal shipping under the Sagar Mala project of the central ministry is slow.

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