New policy to boost port development in India

The Maharashtra government is set to announce a new maritime policy for the development of the sector. The cabinet is likely to approve the policy on January 27, said people familiar with the development.

The draft policy was submitted to the government some time ago and it has been drafted by the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) with inputs from various stakeholders and experts.

A senior MMB officer confirmed to The Hindu that the policy is awaiting Cabinet approval, but declined to share details. Senior government officials said it would be announced by the Chief Minister.

On Friday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted: “We will soon declare a comprehensive policy for development of ports.”

The maritime policy once approved will supersede all previous policies. The new policy envisages a proactive role for the MMB in the entire project life cycle. The MMB will be the nodal agency for all approvals concerning the development of the port and related infrastructure.

“As per the earlier policy, there was no handholding of the developers by the maritime board. But this time, apart from extending all help to the developer, the MMB will closely monitor the development of the ports projects to avoid any instance of asset grab,” a person privy to the draft policy said.

So far, the state’s maritime policy has been reactionary, confined to granting approvals for development of ports through ad hoc and arbitrary allotments to port operators, which has led to lack of development of private sector ports in the state. Many concessionaires who were awarded projects preferred to wait indefinitely, looking for a partner to bankroll the project, so most such projects have remained on paper. Several developers have not laid a foundation stone even a decade after bagging a project. Such projects face the axe.

However, there would be equitable treatment to such developers who have invested some money in projects stuck for genuine reasons. If a project has not taken off for a reasonable amount of time despite all approvals, the government or the maritime board will have the power to scrap an existing concession and may award the project to another party.

As per the new policy, the government will float a port-connecting company to develop ports integrating with the hinterland. Earlier port development was in isolation; now ports will be developed with the active involvement of the industry department and Central government authorities. There will be special focus on connectivity for easy movement of cargo. Recently, a tripartite agreement was signed by JSW Ports, MMB, and Konkan railway to provide a rail link to JSW’s Jaigarh port. Now the state government is working to provide rail connectivity to Dighi port. The new policy is aimed at kick-starting maritime development as well as supporting industrial activity, with the emphasis on port-related development.

The policy will be in sync with the Central government’s capital goods policy, the Sagarmala project, and export promotion policies.

“It took five months to draft the policy,” state officials.“It was the Chief Minister who initiated drastic changes in the maritime sector after taking over.”

Source: The Hindu

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