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The Indian subcontinent was highly significant in historical trade as it connected the European trade giants such as England, France, Portugal and Asia. The Indian maritime history dates back to 3rd millennium BC. Indian maritime affairs have been crucial in the process of globalization and foreign affairs of our country.
The National Maritime Day is celebrated to acknowledge the significance of maritime to the Indian economy and its role in the world trade of India.
To celebrate the significance of intercontinental trade relations and their effect on our economy, 5th April was selected as National Maritime Day from 1964. National Maritime Day is celebrated on 5th April because on this day in 1919 that the 1st Indian commercial vessel set sail from Mumbai to London.
India’s shipping history began on 5th April 1919 when SS Loyalty was the 1st ship of Scindia Steam Navigation Company Ltd, which was also the biggest 1st large scale shipping company entirely owned by Indians.
National Maritime Day 2022: History
The history of maritime trade in India started in the 3rd Millennium BC during the Indus Valley Civilization by having maritime contact with Mesopotamia. During the Maurya empire, the records show that there was a separate naval department that looked over trade and ships. Vedic texts have indicated trading with the far east and countries of Arabia.
India had a growing trade relationship with the Romans. The Indian goods were taken to Rome during the rule of Augustus, and Indian merchants earned about 1 million Roman currency annually. The Romans later on criticized this.
Due to the growth in trade between India and Rome, the majority of goods imported to western countries became spices instead of silks and other goods. This trade made many scholars at the time feel that there is no end to the riches in India, and after the Ottoman expansion in Europe, Portuguese seafarers led by Vasco Da Gama landed in India.
The trade between Indian merchants and Southeast Asian countries was also growing before the British rule in India. These trade routes were also played a role in the spread of Buddhism across Asia.
The Maritime Silk Route established between the 2nd Century BC and the 15th Century AD. The Maritime Silk Route connected Asia, Egypt, Somalia, China, India, Southeast and Europe. Although credited to China, the Maritime Silk Route was established and controlled by the Austronesian sailors initially and Tamil merchants were also significant on this route.
For most of its history, the Maritime Silk Route was journeyed on by Southeast Asian sailors and later on, Tamil and Persian traders were also using the route. This route was significant in the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in Southeast Asia.
The maritime trade of India was the main culprit behind the British occupation of Indian land. The trade during British Raj was damaging for the conventional ports of Surat and Calicut, and there was a rise in newer port areas formed by the British.
The goods traded during the British rule mainly were opium, indigo, and cotton grown by Indian farmers, which were then either exported to Europe or East Asia via China and Burma. Trade by Indian merchants suffered a lot during the British rule.
After the independence, the main focus has been on making use of India’s extensive coastline and its strategic location in Asia. The government has brought out several different projects and programmes which focus on improvising the port projects across India while developing the inland trade channels and waterways.
Due to the high cost in using roadways and railways, the Indian government and the logistics companies across India have started investing in port projects and develop systems to make the process of transporting goods within India and to other countries much simpler and more efficient.
In this way maritime industry in India has been important throughout its history and the economic benefits coming out of it are highly significant for the growth of our country.
The National Maritime Day of India is different from World Maritime Day. World Maritime Day is observed in the last week of September and concentrates on sea trade safety and the marine environment across the world. In 1959, India also connected with the International Maritime Organisation, which concentrates on marine protection and prevention of pollution by ships.
National Maritime Day is celebrated every year with a particular theme and events focused on improving India’s maritime trade. In 2021, it was celebrated with the theme ‘Sustainable Shipping beyond COVID-19’. Maritime India Vision 2030 was also put forward on this occasion.
Significance of Maritime Industry in India:
According to the Ministry of Shipping, the this industry of India contributes to 70% of India’s trading by value and 90% by volume. The Ministry of Shipping was recently renamed by PM Narendra Modi as the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways.
India has 205 notified intermediate and minor ports and 12 major ports. Under the Sagarmala scheme found in 2017, six new mega ports will be constructed in India. The maritime sector in India contributes highly to the commerce and trade in India. The central government has an important role in the development of maritime trade in India.
India has a coastline of 7517 km, and it has the 16th largest maritime industry globally. The government has provided FDI of up to 100 per cent under the automatic route for harbor and port construction. Enterprises will also enjoy a 10-year tax holiday to enterprises that will develop, maintain and operate inland waterways, ports, and inland ports.
India’s main ports have a capacity of 1534.91 million tons per annum. In the Financial year ending in April 2020 , all major ports in India handled 704.93 million tonnes of cargo traffic.
Maritime India Vision 2030:
Maritime India Vision 2030 is a 10 year program aiming to overhaul the Indian maritime sector and anticipate an consumption of 3 lakh crore investment in port projects across India that promises to produce employment for 20 lakh people. This 10-year blueprint was declared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 3 day Maritime India Summit of National Maritime Day 2021.
The government plans on spending INR 1-1.25 lakh crore on developing existing port structures across India and estimates rendering employment to 7 to 10 lakh people. The plan also includes an 80000 crore investment to build port facilities and develop mega-city ports in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Odisha-West Bengal cluster.
The blueprint also includes steps to improve India’s ranking in the ease of doing business index. This will be achieved by digitizing Indian ports and enforcing an Enterprise Business System by digitizing the major ports by 2021.
A National Marine Logistics Portal will also be made to make all processes paper-less with facilities like online payment and e-registration of ships via a unified e-registration portal. According to the plan, industrialization across ports will generate revenue of INR 10,000 crores for the major ports while having cost savings of INR 20,000 crore.
Also, the shifting from Rail or Road transport to coastal transport will have cost savings of INR 9,000-10,000 crores. The plan also aims to make more sustainable ports by escalating the use of renewable energy from 10% to 60% till 2030 while also boosting wealth to waste programs, including recycling internal ships and sustainable dredging by 2030.
It also has a ‘Make for India, Makes for the World’ program, which will aim at accelerating the ship-building capacity of India by 15 times by 2030 and become a leading shipbuilding country in the world. The plan also provides payment to the major stakeholders through the setup of a maritime development fund and develops India’s cruise industry by generating dedicated cruise terminals at 12 ports.
Cruise tourism will be divided into 5 different themes, i.e. pilgrim, heritage, ayurvedic and wellness, island tourism, and international circuits, which will involve India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. The promotion of cruise tourism in India will also have incentives to global cruise companies to make India their home port. This would help increase India’s share of seafarers from 12 % to over 20%t.
The blueprint also contains prioritizing the development of 23 national waterways while focusing on eastern waterways connectivity to decrease transport costs from countries in the East like Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, and Bhutan. This will be done in first Phase while increasing the cargo movement from 75 million tonnes yearly to over 200 million tonnes yearly.
The Maritime India Vision 2030 ultimately concentrates on creating “smart ports” and further “intelligent ports” until 2030.
National Maritime Day 2022: Quiz
1. When is Maritime Day celebrated in India?
2. 1st Indian commercial vessel set sail from Mumbai to London in __________.
3. Maritime India Vision 2030 is a 10 year program proposed in the year ______.
4. There are ___ number of major ports in India.
5.The Indian goods were taken to Rome during the rule of _____________.
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