Indian ships saw a sharp decline in their share in carriage of country’s overseas trade while about half of the domestic shipping fleet is aged, Economic Survey said today. “There has been a sharp decline in the share of Indian ships in the carriage of India’s overseas trade from about 40 per cent in the late 1980s to 7 per cent in 2015-16,” the volume II of the Survey tabled in Parliament said. It said the existing Indian fleet is ageing with the average age increasing from 15 years in 1999 to 19.3 years as on 1 January 2017. “Forty five per cent of the fleet is over 20 years old and 12.2 per cent is in the 15 to 19-year age group,” the Survey said. As on April 30, India had a fleet strength of 1,323 ships with dead weight tonnage (DWT) of 17.50 million including Indian controlled tonnage, with Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) having the largest share of around 34 per cent. Of this, around 410 ships of 15.79 million DWT cater to India’s overseas trade and the rest to coastal trade.
The Survey, however, added that riding on initiatives by the government to protect shipping industry, the year 2016 saw Indian shipping industry once again expertly sail through the choppy waters of volatile freight rates. To encourage the growth of Indian tonnage and for higher participation of Indian ships in Indian trade, the government has implemented several measures which include making fuel tax free for all Indian flag coastal vessels engaged in container trade and giving income tax benefit to Indian seafarers working on Indian ships. The report also said that a vision for coastal shipping, tourism and regional development has been prepared, with a view to increasing the share of the coastal/inland waterways transport mode from 7 per cent to 10 per cent by 2019-20. Coastal cargo handled by ports in 2016-17 was 189.7 million tonnes. It added that to promote Inland Waterways Transport (IWT) several steps have been taken. The National Waterways Act, 2016 has been enacted and enforced to provide for the declaration of 106 additional inland waterways to be National Waterways (NWs) in addition to already existed five National Waterways.