Recently, the Union Shipping Ministry had organised a two-day Annual Port Sector Review Meeting in Visakhapatnam where it unveiled a multi-pronged action plan to not only boost infrastructure in major ports, but also venture into other ‘innovative’ activities to spur economic growth in the sector as well as other spheres.
According to the action plan, the ‘most important emphasis’ for major ports would now be on improving export of agriculture and aqua products. Addressing a press conference after chairing the Meeting, Union Shipping and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said that all ports have been directed to formulate a policy for export of agricultural products and sea food. While the Sagarmala project is expected to steer port led development in the next three years, the Shipping Ministry also plans to foray into other spheres that will lead to job creation and economic growth, besides addressing some of the port sector’s own problems.
In addition, boosting export of agro and aqua products, generation of power, setting up of desalination plants, purchase of own wagons (for freight carriage), launch of cruise operations to promote tourism are some of the ideas the meeting came up with. “Under Sagarmala, we have earmarked Rs 7,000 crore for development of blue economy and agriculture. In the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), we have allotted land for an Special Economic Zone (SEZ), with an expected investment of Rs 1,000 crore, which will be a 100 per cent export-oriented unit,” the Minister said. He further informed that while Kandla Port in Gujarat currently has a 15 MW wind power generating facility, it has been proposed to generate 2000 MW of wind and solar power in a hybrid model. “This will be very useful for the port sector as ports are now buying power at Rs 11 per unit. Once the 2000 MW power is generated, we can it get it for as low as Rs 2.40 a unit. The Union Ministry of Power is ready to invest money on this and the power produced will be given to NTPC,” Gadkari added. According to him, three desalination plants would be established on a pilot basis at Tuticorin, Kandla and Paradip. Gadkari said that when power is available for less than Rs three (per unit), fresh water can be produced at just three paisa per litre from the desalination plants. This water will be supplied to urban areas closer to the ports first and then rural areas where it will be very useful for agriculture. If that is successful, it will be a great thing for the districts that are connected to the sea coast.