A Bold Step For­ward

Maritime Gateway - - From The Editor - R Ram­prasad Edi­tor and Pub­lisher ram­prasad@gate­way­media.in

It has been a "to be or not to be" mo­ment for suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments as far as re­lax­ation of cab­o­tage law is con­cerned. Lot of stud­ies, de­bates and brain storm­ing has been done over the years into as­sess­ing the pros and cons of al­low­ing for­eign lines to char­ter on In­dian coast to move cargo among do­mes­tic ports. More than the tech­ni­cal or im­ple­men­ta­tion hur­dle, it was more of the in­ner fight, whether to open up the last fron­tiers of mar­itime trade to the for­eign lines or to keep it re­served for In­dian flag car­ri­ers.

Had it been in any other in­dus­try the out­come would have gone in favour of na­tion­al­is­tic sen­ti­ment, but as they say in global trade and open econ­omy, mar­ket forces take the fi­nal call. In EXIM trade every penny counts, and ex­porters and im­porters try to squeeze the most value for their money as they com­pete glob­ally. Even though Made In In­dia goods are par ex­cel­lence com­pared with prod­ucts of any coun­try, lo­gis­tics costs and ef­fi­ciency are ar­eas where ex­porters are los­ing to their coun­ter­parts from other coun­tries. One clas­sic ex­am­ple has been Chit­tagong, Kolkata and Chen­nai Ports which de­spite hav­ing sur­plus in­ven­tory of emp­ties couldn’t move the boxes di­rectly to any In­dian port and it has to go back to a trans­ship­ment port be­fore it could be brought to an­other In­dian port. Dur­ing peak sea­son or fes­tive times the prac­tice has turned out to be night­mare for ex­porters as well as car­ri­ers in­clud­ing who­ever in­volved. There couldn’t be a bet­ter time to have this de­ci­sion. The wait has been bit long than ex­pected but all is well when it ends well. Peo­ple out­side the mar­itime trade might not re­al­ize the im­por­tance of this sin­gle most im­por­tant pol­icy change in the his­tory of In­dian ship­ping, but it is no less a his­toric mo­ment than the early 90s when In­dia opened its econ­omy to the world or the coun­try adopted an ‘Open Sky’ pol­icy. Nev­er­the­less the pol­icy mak­ers have de­liv­ered, and it is time for the for­eign car­ri­ers, ports, ter­mi­nals and other stake­hold­ers of the EXIM freight for­ward­ing com­mu­nity to come to­gether to de­liver upto the ex­pec­ta­tion. In­dia has al­ready made a steady progress on the global lo­gis­tics in­dex, and hope­fully the lat­est pol­icy in­ter­ven­tion would fur­ther ce­ment In­dia’s po­si­tion as a global cargo hub. Nev­er­the­less for­eign car­ri­ers now free to move on coastal route would also free up space for In­dian car­ri­ers to cater to the do­mes­tic cargo which is a pos­i­tive sign for coastal ship­ping. Now time will re­veal how this would re­sult in in­creas­ing In­dia's trans­ship­ment vol­umes, con­tribut­ing to the sav­ings. But def­i­nitely cost will come down be­cause of empty repo­si­tion­ing and coastal move­ment.

Time will re­veal how this would re­sult in in­creas­ing In­dia's trans­ship­ment vol­umes.

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