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Indian Shipping Minister unveils maritime plans during London visit

Indian Shipping Minister unveils maritime plans during London visit
India’s Minister of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, Shri Nitin Gadkari, met with selected representatives of the London maritime scene at a special dinner held in his honour at the National Maritime Museum late last week.

Dinner host was fellow national Dr Ravi Mehrotra, chairman of Foresight Group, who explained how he had invited the Minister to London to gain further insights into how to modernize the Indian shipping industry. Gadkari was accompanied on the trip by India’s director general of shipping, Deepak Shetty.

Just 18 months into his new role, Gadkari has already proposed reserving 50% of all government cargoes for Indian-flagged ships, Mehrotra related, as well as allowing 100% foreign ownership of Indian companies.

In addition, a proposal has been tabled for the next tax year to exempt Indian crew from paying national Income Tax when serving aboard Indian-flag vessels engaged in overseas trade – a measure which drew a spontaneous round of applause from the 60 assembled guests.

Minister Gadkari proceeded to relate how he was keen to overhaul the country’s “neglected” maritime industry, and that a new Merchant Shipping Act was being drawn up.

Heavy emphasis would also be placed on national infrastructure development, he said, particularly inland waterways and multimodal ports which would link up with a major road-building programme that has been initiated since he took over his Ministerial portfolio.

One major beneficiary of improved transport links would be the domestic coal industry, he suggested, where the government has set ambitious targets for increased production.

Questioned by Seatrade Maritime News over the country’s long-running plan to import LNG, Gadkari said that India remained “committed” to the idea as it represented a clean and cost-effective source of energy. However, he implied that the government might be rethinking its previous stipulation that some LNG carriers employed must be built in India, saying merely that “some small technology” from India would need to be included.