June 5, 2018
In a major policy scheme aimed at benefitting farmers, the government has done away with the licensing permits for foreign vessels for coastal movement of agriculture, fishery and animal produce, besides allowing Indian citizens to charter ships for these, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said.
This move is aimed to promote processing of seafood at Indian hubs under Sagaramala initiative rather than processing of Indian seafood in Singapore before its further exported to countries like Japan.
“We have done away with the licensing requirement for plying of foreign flag vessels by foreign players on the coastal line of India for four kind of cargos – agriculture, horticulture, fisheries and animal husbandry. We have also allowed chartering of foreign vessel by Indian citizens, Indian incorporated entities and Indian registered societies for this,” said Shipping Minister Gadkari.
The main intent of reform in the maritime sector is to see that farmers income increases and through lower logistic charges like transportation through sea would reduce costs, the minister said.
“It is in continuation of a large number of initiatives Government of India is taking to increase farmers’ income in line with the Prime Minister’s objective to double farmers’ income,” Gadkari added.
The relaxation in licensing requirement has been given under section 407 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1958 and accordingly vessels with at least 50 per cent of total cargo onboard constituted by these commodities are not required to obtain a license from the Director General of Shipping for coastal trade.
“The relaxation has been undertaken to enable farmers to access large market profitability, widen the range of goods to be marketed and lengthen the distance over which domestic trade can be conducted besides promoting trade and ease of doing business in India,” the minister said.
Waterborne transportation is cheaper than by rail or road and can profitably support movement of the produce to reach a wider markets, the minister noted.
Currently, persistence of unidirectional demand leads to insufficient investment in the fleet and as a result inadequate availability of coastal vessels does not allow reliable and time bound services at Indian ports which is necessary for perishable goods, he added.