Cabotage relaxation was fiercely opposed by Indian flag vessels as it negated their reserved right of carrying laden and empty containers between Indian ports.
The ministry of shipping had last year in May relaxed cabotage thereby giving foreign flag vessels the much awaited permission to carry both laden and empty containers from one Indian port to another. This was done to reposition containers where they were needed.
‘Trade has substantially benefited from cabotage relaxation. To begin with Indian flag vessels weren’t very keen on carrying empty containers’ said DG Shipping, Mr Amitabh Kumar, IRS in an interview to Vizag Industrial Scan.
He further added that the repositioning of empty containers has helped the trade significantly. ‘Due to this India is seen increasing its transshipment cargo. Bothndian and foreign flag vessels have benefited with the relaxation of cabotage’ reiterated the DG shipping.
‘‘The only limitation at VPT is cargo evacuation to remote areas’’
Indian Flag Vessels – ROFR
Speaking on ROFR (right of first refusal) he said that Indian flag vessels still enjoy this privilege as it gives them an edge over foreign flag vessels.
‘ROFR still exists for Indian flag vessels’ said Mr Amitabh.
ROFR is given to Indian flag vessels for any tender issued by any Indian charter. ‘Also whenever an Indian PSU requires a ship anywhere in the world to bring cargo to India they are given first priority’ said Mr Amitabh.
He however mentioned that there is a need to identify areas where Indian flag vessels aren’t available so that trade does not suffer.
Evacuation of Cargo
On the issue of cargo evacuation at ports Mr Amitabh stated that there have been significant enhancements in the evacuation of cargo.
‘I am happy to say that most ports have done very well in reducing the turnaround time as well as in evacuation of cargo. The evacuation time at JNPT has been reduced by 48 hours’ said the DG shipping.
He albeit admitted that evacuation of cargo at VPT still needs to be addressed. ‘VPT is a natural deep water port and can accommodate many large vessels. The only limitation at VPT is the cargo evacuation for remote areas’ said the DG shipping.
The senior shipping official further added that under Sagarmala several projects have been identified for evacuation of cargo from VPT and Gangavaram port. ‘Once these projects are completed (by 2020) VPT and Gangavaram would see a major boost in trade both in export and import’ said Mr Amitabh.
Identifying marine tourism to be an important area of development he called on ports to take this forward and highlighted cruise tourism and light house tourism. ‘We have registered our first cruise vessel which moves from Mumbai to Goa. Another vessel has made Mumbai its home port and wants to take cruise passengers from west to east coast. The onus lies on ports to set up cruise terminals and take this forward’ said the DG shipping.
Demand PO office
Asked about the trade’s demand of having a PO office in Vizag he said that as of now there were only 5 places in the country where DG shipping is present.
‘With the recent e-government initiatives and most of the work related to DG shipping now being completed online the requirement of a PO office has reduced’ said the DG shipping.