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  • The past year has been a significant one for the port sector.The government announced a slew of long-awaited measures which are expected to have a positive impact on the sector. The progress on the ground in terms of capacity addition, efficiency improvement and ease of doing businesswasalso quite noticeable.

  • Steps were taken to provide greater autonomy to boards of major port trusts, revise the model concession agreement, relax cabotage restrictions for container transshipment ports, revamp the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, declare 106 inland waterways as national waterways (NWs), allocate 2.5 per cent of the Central Road Fund for the development and maintenance of NWs, grant infrastructure status to the shipbuilding segment, among others.In addition, the goods and services tax, rolled out from July 1, 2017, is likely to have a positive impact on reducing logistics costs in the country.

  • The capacity of major ports crossed 1-billion tonne mark, with a record addition of 100 million tonnes (mt) in 2016-17.Among private ports, Mundra port commenced commercial operations at its fourth container terminal of 1.3 million twentyfoot equivalent unitcapacity, while construction work of the much-awaited Rs 75 billion Vizhinjam port project also started.There was also significant progress on the Jal Marg Vikas project.

  • Traffic at Indian ports, also witnessed a much higher year-on-year (YoY) growth of 5.7 per cent in 2016-17, compared to 1.9 per cent achieved in the previous fiscal. The growth was led by major ports at 6.8 per cent compared to 4.2 per cent at non-major ports. In the first five months of 2017-18, however, traffic at major ports witnessed a growth of only 3.2 per cent, primarily affected by negative growth in coal import volumes.

  • The governments most ambitious programme for the port sector till date, Sagarmala also made visible progress.About 215 projects involving an investment of about Rs 1.3 trillion are already under various stages of implementation and development.

  • While the Sagarmala programme has brought in the much-needed optimism in the sector, its timely and successful execution requires close coordination between the central and state governments. A major role is required to be played by the private sector. This, in turn, requires addressing various regulatory and structural issues hampering the sector.

  • Land acquisition is a major concern, especially for greenfield projects.Contractual issues also require immediate attention. Congestion at ports, increase waiting times for vessels which, in turn, adversely affects shipping lines's schedules and thus their profit margins.

  • Another area that requires focus isimproving evacuation via rail and road. This is especially important for coastal and inland water traffic, as their cost effectiveness depends on seamless multi-modal connectivity.Further, a coordinated approach to capacity addition is needed, as till now the focus has only been on the west coast.

  • Modernisation as well as mechanisation of ports through adoption of smart and sustainable technologies is also being pursued more aggressively by ports. Greater emphasis is being laid onthe use of electronic channels for information exchange, establishing a single-window clearance system, installing container scanners, implementing radio frequency identification and gate automation, etc.

  • The sector also needs deeper draught levels, improved customer service and supportive integrated facilities such as multimodal logistics parks, free trade warehousing zones, inland container depots and container freight stations.

  • The mission of the conference is to analyse the key trends and developments in the port sector, discuss the impact and progress key government and private projectsprogrammes, and showcase best practices and new initiatives being taken by ports. It will also highlight new and emerging technology and equipment trends and solutions.

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