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India Shipping Summit closes with calls for swift action

India Shipping Summit closes with calls for swift action

Mumbai: The fourth annual India Shipping Summit has concluded with over 500 participants from 21 countries hearing positive calls for action and encouraging predictions for the nation's maritime development.

The summit, held at Grand Hyatt Mumbai, addressed pivotal themes with both domestic and global perspectives.  In focus were India's future as a global maritime player, finance to help it enter a new era, infrastructure opportunities, and the offshore oil and gas markets.  Other topics included shipbuilding in India, maritime technology and the changing regulatory arena, energy transportation, and the industry's crewing crisis.

In the closing plenary session, Mr S Hajara, president of Indian National Shipowners' Association (INSA), said "This has been a very special edition of the summit.  Since 2005, it has grown to become the main fixture bridging the Indian maritime community and the rest of the world.  To improve image of shipping, it is essential to have exposure at this summit."  

He talked of the crucial need for INSA to have a continuous dialogue with the oil and gas sector, which he described as "our bread and butter" from bottom line to top line.  "We have to go deeper and deeper into the sea to provide for our own requirements for oil and gas.  So the maritime industry is becoming necessarily closer and closer to those sectors and I am therefore very happy that senior figures from them are here this week.  It is also very pleasing to see the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Maritime Organization so well represented."

Mr Hajara pointed to the summit's debate on the manning crisis in shipping and emphasised the vital role of education and skills development for the future of the entire industry.  "Obviously, this means I'm very pleased that the government is likely to establish the first maritime university in the country soon," he concluded.

Speaking on behalf of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Mr J O Espinoza Ferrey applauded the summit for tackling issues which are very hot on IMO's 'green' agenda.  "It has been of tremendous use to be here to, on the one hand, inform about the thinking going on at IMO and on the other hand to get feedback and do research at grass roots level.  The summit gives a highly instructive and enriching experience."  Recalling the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Mr Ferrey said that he spoke then with many visiting teenagers and young people about the damage irresponsibly operated shipping business can do to marine environments.  "I'm happy to say many of them who asked me, 'How can this be allowed?' are now, in 2008, the people shaping the world in terms of environmental policies."  He also identified the responsibility of the shipping industry to raise its own profile and sharpen up its public image.  "The public have view of shipping, if they have one at all, which is all about a dirty, accident-prone industry.  Raising and amending this profile will have the knock-on effect of boosting education and skills training issues and help engage the right people in governments all over the world.
Vijay Kumar, director of Bharati Shipyard, thanked the summit for giving shipbuilders the chance to air their views.  Speaking on behalf of shipyards in general, he said "We have to decide if we want shipbuilding.  Do we have a vision for India to develop as a shipbuilding country?  If so, we need a long-term holistic policy.  Once we have it, we need to implement it properly."  He called for the government to set up a high level committee to include the Ministries of Planning and Finance and leaders in national shipbuilding.  "We need to educate the people in Delhi about what shipbuilding is.  It was only in 2002 that the private sector was given any kind of support from government.  There are huge investment opportunities out there that will give massive returns in a very short number of years.  But official support will be crucial to get these off the ground. The government can earn back what they give, plus colossal profits, within less than 20 years.  This industry has lots to offer.  It's time everyone saw that."

Ray Stewart, ceo of Pipavav Shipyard, the integrated shipbuilding facility adjacent to India's first private sector port, in the south west of Gujarat, said "Pipavav is one of many new projects in India that have come about through the private sector putting money into ideas which are dynamic and ahead of their time.  There is tremendous potential here."  He also called for the government to give incentives to shipowners ordering in India and strongly endorsed the view of Mr Kumar and others, stressing "The need for a co-ordinated maritime policy covering ports, shipyards, equipment suppliers, everything.  The Ministry of Shipping is basically supportive of this but the money is held by the Ministry of Finance.  There are more farmers than shipbuilders.  If the money goes somewhere, will it simply go to agriculture?  Maritime is the future and it is necessary to see this fact.  I urge representatives of the Ministry of Finance to come down to Mumbai for next year's summit and learn more about it."

Narendra Taneja, the summit's convener, spoke in closing of the challenge to expand the annual summit further in the years to come, starting in 2009, to help take India to the world and bring the world to India.  "Providing a 'think tank' for Maritime India will continue to be of pivotal importance," he said.  "Next year, the expansion of the summit to four days, incorporating a major exhibition of domestic and international products and services, is the logical and necessary next step to fulfil our remit to make the industry bigger and brighter so that shipping business into and out of India can grow, profits can increase, and relationships can multiply."
The dates for next year's new and expanded India Shipping Summit are 20-23 October, to be held again in Mumbai.  The India Shipping Summit Awards Gala Presentation Dinner will kick off the event.  Nominations and entries will be open soon. [2/09/08]