The Union Shipping Ministry on 16 January 2014 unveiled new policy guidelines for major ports. The policy guidelines have been released with an aim to help them leverage their land resources for commercial advantage.
The policies will help in carrying out leasing and licensing of port land in a transparent manner as this provides necessary framework for land allotment by major ports. The Union Shipping Ministry has also cleared 20 port projects involving an investment of 6000 crore rupees, envisaging 102 million tonnes in capacity in the first nine months of the fiscal.
The guidelines have also reduced the discretion powers and has prescribed tender-cum-auction as the most preferred method of allotment.
The new policy guidelines says
• Land can be allotted only through licensing in custom bond areas by inviting competitive bidding, while land outside custom bond areas can be leased through tender-cum-auction
• There is also a provision to license land outside custom bond areas, but it should be only for port related activities.
• The Boards of respective ports can approve leasing of land for a period up to 30 years. For leasing of land beyond 30 years and up to 99 years, approval of the Government has to be obtained through the mechanism of Empowered Committee.
The guidelines has also made it mandatory to draw land use plan by covering all land owned and managed by all the 12 major ports of the country. The issued guidelines are applicable on all the ports except for land related to township areas of the Mumbai, Kandla and Kolkata. The new policy guidelines for land management are part of the process of port reforms and liberalization.
The central owned ports operate in a comparatively regulated environment, while the non-major ports that comprise state ports and private ports enjoy substantive flexibility. By issuing these guidelines the government is trying to create a level playing field for major and non-major ports.
As a part of reform process in the Port sector tariff setting in major ports was liberalized and indexed to inflation and minimum efficiency standards were prescribed for cargo terminals in 2013. The 12 major ports of India handle approximately 61 percent of the cargo traffic. The major ports are Mumbai, Kandla, JNPT, Marmugao, New Managlore, Cochin, Chennai, Ennore, V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia).
An annual conference titled Ports in India was also conducted on 15 January 2014. It was attended by Vishwapati Trivedi, the Shipping Secretary.
Overview: About 2.64 lakh acres of land is being used by the major ports of the country, which can be considered as the major resource. The land has not been utilised to an optimum level which in return has given less returns of the use of lands. The new policy might link the value of land with the prevailing market rates.