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MoPSW to develop service hubs for ships in major ports

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NEW DELHI : The game plan of the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways to develop service hubs for ships in Centre-owned major ports has gained traction with the committee set up to study the proposal submitting its report charting the way forward.

The committee, in its final report, said that the opening-up of the anchorage to ancillary ship services could bring huge benefits to the port, mainly in increasing the number of ship calls.

This will enhance the port’s name and reputation in the shipping industry and help the port establish its presence.

Sources familiar with the report revealed that the proposal has been forwarded to the Ministry for further action, highlighting an increase in vessel calls to major ports following the implementation of the plan.

The ports will gain only after the services are well established, translating into bigger business both from increased ship calls as well as anchorage charges and with the added benefit of employment generation in the region, according to the report.

Potential benefits

Citing an instance of the plan’s potential, the committee emphasised the introduction of crew change services at the outer anchorage of Cochin Port from April 2020.

In the 18 months since, almost 1,000 ships have changed around 15,000 crew at the anchorage of Cochin Port. This is more than half the total number of ships that call Cochin Port Authority every year and this was for crew change alone, said an official briefed on the matter.

A further attraction of the plan is that there is no requirement for any big change in regulation or any major investment or capital expenditure to be made by these ports. Once procedures are in place, all ports can offer these services without having to set up any major infrastructure and once the port gets established as a services hub, the port stands to gain considerably, he said.

While the benefit to the major ports is not direct, there are many indirect benefits as smooth services will make ship owners and operators who are potential customers aware of the abilities and benefits of the Port. Some indirect benefits will accrue to the port such that ships calling the major port for some other service like repair may choose to take bunkers also as the vessels are stopping over anyway.

This could also be by way of berthing services for some works which cannot be undertaken at the anchorage.

Boosting business

There is immense potential for indirect employment generation in the region from hospitality to technical and boat services, besides attracting ship servicing companies to locate in the major port once volumes grow. This would also help shipyards and other ship repair facilities located in and around the major ports to add to their business by service to ships at the anchorage without adding to the congestion in their yards.

However, the report highlighted some concerns where ships could come to the anchorage and stay for a very long time. Some ship owners could bring ships of doubtful seaworthiness and keep them there, which could then be abandoned. The port would have to guard against such operators by refusing entry to these vessels, the report said.

Given India’s location in the middle of the Indian Ocean with two major East West shipping lanes passing close to the coast, the opening-up of the anchorage to ship services is expected to attract a large number of international ships to these ports, provided they are able to match the other hub ports of the region in quality and reliability of services.

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