Union minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Thursday said the states should see the proposed ‘Indian Port Bill’ as a “development issue" rather than a political issue, stressing that the bill will facilitate optimum utilisation and management of the coastline by the Centre and maritime states. While virtually addressing the 18th meeting of the Maritime State Development Council (MSDC), Mandaviya assured states that his ministry will welcome all the suggestions from them to develop a comprehensive port bill, a ministry statement said.
The Minister of Port, Shipping and Waterways further said that both the Centre and state governments will jointly work on the development of the maritime sector including several non-functional ports. The objective of MSDC is to develop a national plan for the development of the maritime sector beneficial for both states and the centre and to adopt best practices for the sector, the minister said.
The development of the country, Mandaviya said, depends on the development of the states and MSDC is the best example of cooperative federalism. “In a scattered way we can’t develop, united we can achieve," he added. Stressing on the need for the ‘Indian Port Bill 2021’, the minister requested state governments to see the Indian Port Bill as a development issue and not as a political issue, the statement said. He highlighted that the ‘Indian Port Bill 2021’ will facilitate to have optimum management and utilisation of the coastline by way of participation by both the union government and maritime states/union territories.
It pointed out that in FY 2020, the traffic handled at Indian ports is about 1.2 billion MT, which is expected to increase to 2.5 billion MT by 2030. “On the other hand, only a few ports in India are having deeper draft which can handle capsize vessels. In addition, there are around 100 non-functional ports distributed across the coast of India," the statement said.
Noting that MSDC will advise on the planning of all ports including major Ports, the statement said several conventions pertaining to safety, security and prevention of pollution are incorporated in Indian Port Bill 2021 for implementation of all requirements stipulated in such conventions by all ports.
The statement said key items discussed during the meeting are Indian Port bill 2021, National Maritime Heritage Museum (NMHC), Rail and Road connectivity with Ports, Floating Jetties for Marine Operations and Sea Plane Operations, Sagarmala Projects and National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) projects. MSDC is an apex advisory body for the development of the Maritime sector and aims to ensure integrated development of Major and non-Major Ports. MSDC was constituted in May 1997 to assess in consultation with state governments, the future development of existing and new minor Ports by the respective Maritime States either directly or through captive users and private participation.
On Tuesday, The Tamil Nadu government opposed the Draft Indian Ports Bill 2021, dealing with the management of minor ports, with Chief Minister M K Stalin writing to his counterparts of eight states including West Bengal and Kerala, calling for their objection to the proposal. The Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways has framed the draft bill to modify the current management model of minor ports.
According to the existing Indian Ports Act, 1908, the powers to plan, develop, regulate and control minor ports vest with the state governments concerned but the latest draft ‘proposes to change this and transfer many of these powers to MSDC, which has so far been only an advisory body,’ Stalin had said. ‘Further to this, many powers currently exercised by state governments would be taken over by the Union government,’ he said in his letter to the CMs of Gujarat, Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and the union territory of Puducherry.
This move of the central government to bring a new Bill will have long term adverse implications on the management of minor ports, since the state governments will not have any major role anymore, if the Bill is passed,’ Stalin had said.