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We may see Russian icebreakers built in Indian shipyards : Sarbananda Sonowal

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CHENNAI : “We may see Russian icebreakers being built at Indian shipyards. These are encouraging possibilities of India-Russia Maritime Partnership,” Union Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Shri Sarbananda Sonowal said after inaugurating the India-Russia workshop for ‘Operationalisation of the Eastern Maritime Corridor’ in Chennai on January 24.

“I am also optimistic of the many prospects for deepening our bilateral maritime cooperation, particularly in the two countries’ maritime skill development and training, shipbuilding and port-based clean energy investments. Indian seafarers will be equipped in Russia with the necessary training to undertake polar voyages for Arctic shipping,” he said.

The minister said that given the geopolitical situation in the Red Sea and Suez Canal, the Eastern Maritime Corridor (EMC) could be an effective alternative for movement of goods and will provide India a lot of scope. The EMC connects ports on India’s east coast with the ports in Far East Russia via Malacca Strait, the South China Sea and the Sea of Japan, he said.

The situation in the Red Sea that’s impacting maritime trade is a serious matter. India has given importance to freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce, and the Government of India has been taking adequate measures to ensure maritime security for seamless movement of commercial vessels. The ministries concerned are taking action in this regard, he said.

The distance between Mumbai port and the port of St Petersburg, Russia, by the western sea route via Suez Canal, is 8,675 nautical miles or 16,066 km. However, the distance from Chennai port to Vladivostok port via the EMC is only 5,647 nautical miles or 10,458 km — a saving of 5,608 km i and almost 16 days of travel time. This will help in reducing logistic cost immensely, apart from boosting efficiency in transportation of cargo between the two countries, he said.

Addressing the workshop, the minister said the corridor promises immense potential to unlock new trade opportunities, thereby fostering mutual economic prosperity and resilience.

The saving on time and fuel will enhance the corridor’s viability, he said.

The workshop, organised by Chennai Port Authority (CPA), was attended by policymakers, regulators, industry leaders from the coal, crude, LNG, fertilisers, and containerised cargo, and seaports and terminals sectors from both nations.

Anatoly Yuryevich Bobrakov, Deputy Minister for the Development of the Far East and the Artic of the Russian Federation, said there has already been over $130 billion investment in Russia in the oil and gas sectors. Russia sees India as its strategic partner and is working closely to deepen bi-lateral ties through enhanced trade relations.

He invited Indian delegates to attend the upcoming 9th Far Eastern Economic Forum in September 2024 in Russia.

Chennai Port Authority, Chairman Mr. Sunil Paliwal said that while some commodities, such as crude, coal and LNG, can be immediately shipped through the corridor, others like fertilisers and containerised cargo require long-term commitment from both parties. He affirmed his commitment towards enabling dialogues between the two countries to operationalise the corridor.

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