India must look beyond money to develop its ports sector for which it has estimated a whopping investment of Rs.2.98 lakh crore (nearly $45 billion) for handling 3.13 billion tonnes of cargo annually, according to a research study released here on Friday.
The study, conducted by the Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals (Brief) with the support of the British High Commission here, recommends a comprehensive, holistic and port-wise plan of action to enhance maritime trade and ease the business environment.
The recommendations focus on key areas of reform requiring investment as well as restructuring of port policies to support India's development agenda in the area. The study says for an emerging economy, such initiatives are key to capitalising on trade opportunities and promoting growth.
The study comes at a time when Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari has said the government has drawn up projects with an investment potential of Rs.120,000 crores ($18 billion), including 27 port-based clusters, coastal shipping and inland waterways, which can create 4-6 million new jobs.
India currently handles around 1 billion tonnes of cargo from over 200 ports.
"It's not all about investments," said Mohammed Saqib, chief executive of Brief, after looking at some key ports such as Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Mumbai Port, Paradip Port, Haldia Docks, Cochin Port, Chidambaranar Port, Adani Port, Attari and Petrapole Land Customs Stations for the study.
"While technology and international experience are necessary pre-requisites for port development, they must also be complemented with efficient coordination and communication between authorities and the stakeholders in the country," Saqib said.
"The recommendations made in the report have been designed to aid overall development of the Indian Ports Sector, which in turn will have positive effects on the Indian economy."
The study was conducted from April 2015 to March 2016 and focussed on identifying infrastructural gaps and policy reforms that needed to be addressed to capitalise on the trade opportunities in the country.
Issues highlighted by it include inadequate mechanisation, low draft, lack of coordination among authorities, poor rail and road connectivity, frequent breakdown of ports and customs softwares, flaws in risk management systems, high tariffs and uncompetitive costs.
Brief is an economic research organization focusing on primary survey-based research in a host of socio-economic areas. It has undertaken studies for clients like The World Bank, Germany's GIZ, Ficci, Sidbi, Dun and Bradstreet and the British High Commission.