Incoherent policies of Tamil Nadu Maritime Board take state backwards, warns analysts
Experts in Maritime sector think that the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board’s (TMB)’s incoherent policies for developing minor ports could push the developed state backwards in providing sea connectivity to other countries.
According to sources, the willful backpedalling by the TMB from strongly concentrating on developing minor ports has put question marks over the growth of the very important sector in Tamil Nadu in future against the systematic growth of them in Gujarat (West Coast) and neighbouring states like Andhra Pradesh and Odisha in East Coast.
Experts also pointed out that despite the state-controlled maritime board’s plan for developing over 15 minor ports as well as captive ports in Tamil Nadu for years, only three of them were actually materialized in recent times.
Speaking to Sagar Sandesh on condition of anonymity, a senior port planner said that though the Tamil Nadu state has three Union government-managed major ports at Chennai, Ennore and Tuticorin, the delay in developing minor ports along the navigationally-suited coastline would prove shifting of industries and EXIM businesses in future to those states that provide all such comforts.
It may be worth recalling here that the state of Gujarat, though only with one union government-controlled major port at Kandla, has evolved itself as a main destination of all import and export activities in West Coast by developing several minor ports through Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB).
In the same logic, Tamil Nadu, given the vast coastline close to the international maritime routes, has immense potential to become a major trading hub in East Coast by having several active ports to give seamless connectivity to importers of coal and other important raw materials as well as for exporters to ship out their cargoes with much convenience.
Sensing the importance of equipping the port sector to increase its revenue as well as to the national exchequer, neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, which does not have even a maritime board, has divided its coastline into five different zones and is concentrating on them. Due to its concerted efforts, today Krishnapatnam and Gangavaram ports in the state are flourishing with heavy cargo movements throughout the year.
Besides, Odisha has also chalked out well-planned strategies to develop minor ports in the state with more emphasis on latest cargo handling facilities. While it is the case in other states, TMB, which has clearly lost its priority on minor ports according to port planners, proves its poor planning at time.
FLIP-FLOPS by TMB:
A classical example of its incoherent policy towards the sector can be better explained in recent step where the board has invited expression of interest (EOI) to develop minor ports and port related facilities or activities in the Silambimangalam region, located hardly a kilometer away from another such facility—Parangipettai Port, Cuddalore, being developed by Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited (IL&FS).
It is worth recalled here that the Board’s approval granted to Goodearth Shipbuilding Pvt Ltd, Chennai, for developing a port within Silambimangalam Shipyard port limits in July 2007 was cancelled in August 2012, for reasons best known to them.
According to port infrastructure analysts, when a company failed to develop port within three years of granting such permission, the order has to be cancelled automatically. However, the company, which failed to develop the project kept the land in its possession for two more years beyond the permitted three years, by reportedly greasing the palms of top officials in the Tamil Nadu Maritime Board.
On one hand, the board has been “proving” its worth by miserably failing in converting the already allocated minor ports to different companies in the state into active and bustling ports. On the other, its “eagerness” to develop a port facility that too less than kilometer’s distance is telling a different story.
According to sources in the industry, the decision to invite an EOI for Silambimangalam Port project by the Board may be an act to either kill the development of nearby ports or to favour a certain private company.
Besides, the industry sources also adds that unlike the maritime boards in other states, especially in Gujarat, which comes out in many ways to facilitate private players to set up new port in their areas, Tamil Nadu Maritime Board plays hardball with the potential investors.
When Sagar Sandesh tried to get the version of Tamil Nadu Maritime Board on these allegations from the top officials, nobody was available for comment.