India might soon be involved in shaping global shipping and trade movement rules as it hopes its membership in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) would be upgraded to Category-A.
Government officials said India, a Category-B member, was hopeful of breaking into the top category due to the numerous initiatives taken by the Ministry of Shipping for the promotion of maritime industry, such as the Sagarmala programme and plans for coastal economic zones.
According to an independent maritime expert, an upgrade to Category-A would enable India to be part of the several committees of the body, which would essentially mean greater participation in the decision-making process.
Shipping and Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday strongly pitched for India's re-election to the Council of International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in London, listing the government's major initiatives, said a PTI report. “India is hereby putting forward its candidature for a re-election to the Council of the IMO in Category-B representing the developing countries and those with the largest interests in international sea borne trade.”
The IMO’s primary purpose is to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping and its remit includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping.
Ten nations — China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, the UK and the US — are in Category-A, based on their interest in providing international shipping services. Category-B has Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden — large nations with interest in international seaborne trade. The remaining 20 states are under Category-C — Australia, Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey. These nations have special interests in maritime transport or navigation and their election to the council ensures the representation of all major geographic areas of the world.
India has been a member of the IMO since 1959. New Delhi has ratified all major safety, environmental pollution and labour conventions and has bi-lateral agreements on maritime transport with 27 countries. The government hopes to get an upgrade in its IMO status as it has taken numerous initiatives towards the promotion of maritime industry.
The Sagarmala scheme, for example, is executing port and port-led development projects worth Rs 1 lakh crore in various stages of implementation. The programme aims to harness India’s 7,500-km coastline, 14,500 km of potentially navigable waterways and strategic location on key international maritime trade routes. The concept of the Sagarmala programme was approved by the Cabinet in March 2015.
The government is also engaged in the preparation of the detailed master plans for the Coastal Economic Zones. The Cabinet in December 2015 approved amendments to The National Waterways Bill, 2015. It provides for enacting a central legislation to declare 106 additional inland waterways as national waterways. After the inclusion of 106 additional inlands waterways to the existing five national waterways, the number of national waterways would go up to 111.