Port Wings News Bureau:
With the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board’s (TMB) policies for developing minor ports to become a true “Maritime gateway state of East Coast” shrouded in mystery, experts in Exim sector here feel that the board should learn from its counterpart in West coast, Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), which has earned laurels from various quarters for playing pivotal role in bringing in sustained revenue for the state as well to the country’s exchequer.
Though Mr Rajeev Ranjan I.A.S., Principal Secretary to Govt for Highways and Minor Ports, while speaking to Port Wings recently asserted that the state government is not lagging behind in promoting it as the maritime gateway to South Asian ports in East Coast, ground reality is totally different and any further delay to capitalize the emerging opportunities in port sector could push the industrially developed state backwards in providing better sea connectivity to other countries.
Tamil Nadu Maritime Board
The Tamil Nadu Maritime Board was formed under the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board Act of 1995 in March 1997, whereby the erstwhile Tamil Nadu Port Department was converted into a Maritime Board for the purpose of administration, management and control of the non-major ports.
The State of Tamil Nadu has a coastline of about 1076 Kms. Along this coastline, there are three Major Ports, namely, Kamarajar (Ennore), Chennai and VOC Port Tuticorin notified under the Major Port Trust Act, 1963 and 23 Non-Major (Minor) Ports notified under the Indian Ports Act 1908. The major ports come under the control of Government of India and the non-major ports come under the control of the state government.
All the minor ports in Tamil Nadu, except Kattupalli Port, are anchorage ports without berthing facilities and hence cargoes are transshipped from the vessels at mid-stream to the shore and vice-versa through barges or submerged pipelines.
Gujarat Maritime Board
On the other hand, Gujarat Maritime Board was created in 1982 under the Gujarat Maritime Board Act, 1981, to manage, control and administer the minor ports of Gujarat. Since its inception, Gujarat Maritime Board brought all stakeholders under one roof and resolved the then existing issues in the Port sector like obsolete technology, low loading rates, congestion and delays, poor connectivity with the hinterland etc.
Now, the state of Gujarat boasts of four important private ports viz Pipavav (India’s first private port), Mundra Port & SEZ, Dahej and Hazira. Of the 41 non-major ports, 19 are operational. Gujarat has the distinction of handling the maximum non-major port cargo traffic in India. Estimates clearly show the GMB ports are expected to handle cargo traffic to the tune of 324 MMTPA by 2015-16, which is a major chunk in overall cargo movements in the country.
To facilitate and meet the cargo projections, GMB has proposed the development of some new ports at Dholera, Positra, Simar, Vansi-Borsi, Mithivirdi, Bedi, Maroli, Suthrapada, Modhawa, Khambhat and Mahuva. In a nutshell, with its Maritime Board, Gujarat has developed about 40 ports in the last 20 years.
However, the growth and prominence GMB had achieved over the years in establishing the Gujarat state as the maritime gateway in West Coast was missing in TMB.
Appeal to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa
According to Exim analysts, TMB, which could have developed the Tamil Nadu state as a maritime gateway in East Coast (like GMB in West Coast) given the phenomenal industrial growth since mid-1990s and a better road and rail connectivity, had miserably failed to turn the state’s minor ports as growth engines.
Speaking to Port Wings on a condition of anonymity, a retired senior official in port sector said that the Maritime Board’s lackadaisical approach in materializing the concrete proposals for promoting minor ports now come back to haunt the whole state.
Though the maritime board has been “planning” development of over 20 minor ports as well as captive ports in Tamil Nadu for years, only three of them were actually materialized in recent times.
“The delay in developing minor ports along the navigationally-suited coastline (of the state) would force shifting of industries and its allied Exim businesses in future to those states, who could provide all hassle-free facilities,” the retired official warned.
Growing Competition from Neighbouring States
Sensing the importance in equipping it port sector to increase its revenue, neighbouring Andhra Pradesh led by its dynamic Chief Minister Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu has decided to constitute the long pending AP Maritime Board to attract over Rs 30,000 crore investments. Andhra has nearly 1,000-km coastline with 14 notified non-major ports and a Major Port (centre-controlled) at Visakhapatnam.
Even without a maritime board, Andhra Pradesh has divided its coastline into five different zones and concentrating on them.
Due to its concerted efforts, today Krishnapatnam and Gangavaram ports in the state are flourishing with heavy cargo movements throughout the year.
Besides, Odisha has also chalked out well-planned strategies to develop minor ports in the state with more emphasis on latest cargo handling facilities.
Ray of Hope from Govt?
If the Tamil Nadu government-controlled Tamil Nadu Maritime Board fails to gauge the abundant opportunity in the port sector now, then it could certainly lag behind other states in the East Coast in providing maritime connectivity.