October 1, 2011

PM's address at the SCI's Golden Jubilee Celebrations

I am delighted to participate in the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI). For fifty years now the SCI has rendered outstanding services to the nation. I extend my very warm greetings to all those who have been associated with the Corporation in its journey of half a century.

In this half century, the SCI has transformed itself from a small shipping line to the largest shipping company of our country and also a Navratna Public Sector Enterprise. It would be no exaggeration to say that the growth of India's merchant marine sector has been led by the SCI. The company has also been instrumental in establishing a significant Indian presence in the global maritime arena. I find it particularly commendable that apart from being the largest, the SCI is also the most diversified Indian shipping company operating in varied shipping sectors and carrying a wide range of cargo such as oil, coal, iron ore, food grains, gas, steel and containers. Indeed, the SCI has been a pioneer in several areas. It is the only Indian shipping company providing long haul container services to international markets. It is also the only Indian shipping company to have ventured into the highly specialized area of LNG transportation, in joint ventures with leading international shipping companies. I congratulate the SCI and its management and staff for these splendid achievements.

A good transport infrastructure is critical not only for increasing the pace of our country's economic development but also for making our growth processes more inclusive. We should look seriously I suggest, at coastal shipping and the development of inland waterways as environment friendly and fuel efficient modes of transport for optimizing the overall logistics cost and reaching the hinterland of our country. We need to accelerate the pace of expansion of the port sector, particularly through public private partnerships. We also need to improve the draught in our ports by increasing the pace of dredging. In inland waterways we need to promote investments, particularly in the remote areas of our country, like in the North East.

There is also a need for seamless integration of various modes of transportation and therefore for the coordinated development of the shipping industry, land based logistics and the port sector. Much greater attention needs to be paid to ensuring good road and rail connectivity to our ports, especially the new minor ports coming up in the private sector. We have set up the National Transport Development Policy Committee under the chairmanship of Dr Rakesh Mohan, and I am confident that the Committee will provide useful suggestions for the future growth of the sector in years to come.

India's growing economy with its increasing need for transportation of raw materials, semi-finished and finished products offers excellent opportunities for our maritime sector. I would urge the Indian shipping and logistics industry to make full use of the emerging opportunities that are now on the horizon.

As our maritime sector, including shipping, ports, shipbuilding and ship-repair, is of vital significance to our economy, we should collectively make every effort possible for the growth of this vital sector. However, we should also ensure adequate Indian control over our maritime activity, for reasons of maritime security. In the context of India's growing international trade and increasing energy demand and dependence on global energy markets, there is an urgent need to further develop our national fleet. I call upon the Indian shipping companies to pursue their growth plans in the right earnest and in tune with the global economic environment.

Human resource is one of the vital ingredients for successful operation and growth of any industry. With its training initiatives, the SCI has contributed greatly to the growth of India's maritime sector by creating a pool of maritime talent. Indian seafarers have played an important role in India gaining recognition as a maritime country. Today, seafarers from India are highly sought after by shipping companies the world over for their skill and diligence. The maritime industry should further invest in attracting more talent to this vital sector and also in upgrading the talent already available in the industry through training and development initiatives.

Any industry can thrive only in an atmosphere of safety and security. Incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships are a cause of concern to all of us and to the shipping industry in particular. Instances of pirate attacks in the Arabian Sea and more recently in the Indian Ocean, much beyond the piracy infested areas of Gulf of Aden, pose a serious threat to us by putting at risk a large number of Indian seafarers and Indian ships, as also our seaborne trade. Our Navy, our Coast Guard and the shipping companies are putting up a concerted effort in close co-ordination with other international agencies to deal with this menace. But I suggest more needs to be done in this area to provide safety and security.

As we celebrate SCI's Golden Jubilee, let me once more felicitate the Corporation and its employees - both serving on shore and those sailing in its ships. As the National Flag Carrier as well as the largest and the most diversified shipping company in India, you must take the lead in taking India to higher levels in the global maritime sector. In the last fifty years you have served our nation with great distinction. I congratulate you for your achievements but I venture to suggest that the best is yet to come. And that next fifty years of your existence we will see still more cooperative, productive contribution to the growth of this vital sector of our economy. And thereby its contribution to our nation's growth and development we will see a still more glorious innings in the next fifty years to come. I conclude, may God bless each one of you.