Ship Yard
Representational ImageReuters

To ease norms for coastal shipping in the country, the Union government has decided to issue life-time licenses to Indian ships, instead of the prevailing system of annual renewal of ship licenses. The announcement was made by the Union Ministry for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping on Sunday, 20 July.

The life-time licensing system will benefit coastal trading as the process will be decentralized and liberalized, the Ministry said. The license will be issued to Indian ships and any other ship chartered by an Indian citizen or an Indian company.

The decision has been approved by the Minister for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari.

All the five Registrars of Ships at Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkatta, Goa and Cochin will issue the life-time licenses under the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act 1958. By collecting a life time fee, the one-time licenses will be issued to ship owners instead of annual fee.

"But the license will be co-terminus with the certificate of Registry of the Ship. A ship is registered by the Principal Officers of Mercantile Marine Departments (MMD) of the DG (Shipping) who are designated Registrars of Ships by the DG (Shipping). They would now get powers to issue life time licenses also," the Ministry said.

India can utilise coastal shipping/sea route for passenger transportation and to transport industrial material like coal and steel. But, currently in India there is not enough connectivity of road and railways between factories and ports to use the coastal route.

Indian companies like Tata Steel uses coastal route for its transportation needs in other parts of the world.

Now Tata Steel aims to use coastal and inland waterways in India to transport raw materials to its factories and finished goods to save freight and energy costs. Tata Steel is India's largest steelmaker. Currently, Tata Steel transports 63 per cent cargo by rail and 37 per cent by road.

Tata Steel, based in Jamshedpur, is setting up a ₹40,000 crore project in Odisha's Kalinganagar and the company plans to transport 15-20 per cent raw material and goods by water.

The new government too has given impetus to develop coastal shipping and inland waterways by allotting ₹4,200 crore in its maiden budget to develop Ganga for inland waterway and encourage coal transportation through coastal shipping.

The Union government aims to utilise the long Indian sea coast for transportation needs of the country and India is already working with Bangladesh to engage in coastal shipping.