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At least one major port to be corporatised, listed: FM

The govt wants to improve the operation of ports through mechanisation, digitisation and process simplification.

Last Updated: Feb 01, 2020, 07.12 PM IST
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NEW DELHI: To improve the efficiency of ports in the country, the government will set up a framework and look at corporatisation of at least one major port followed by subsequent listing on stock exchanges, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Saturday.

Presenting the Union Budget for 2020-21, Sitharaman said performance of ports have improved and government is taking steps to further enhance their efficiency.

"Sea ports have improved... Government will come out with a framework for ports and will look into corporatising at least one major port and subsequently its listing on stock exchanges," Sitharaman said.

The government has been striving to improve the operational efficiencies of ports through mechanisation, digitisation and process simplification.

The minister also proposed to set up a landmark maritime museum at Lothal (Gujarat), the artificial dockyard of Harappa Civilisation and a Tribal museum in Ranchi.

As proposed, the Lothal museum will also be an independent research centre of underwater archaeology and will display salvaged material from shipwreck sites in the Indian Ocean waters.

The museum is being set up with technical help from the Portuguese Maritime Heritage Museum. It is the site of one of the oldest ports in India dating to the Bronze Age.

Welcoming the Budget, Shipping Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said: "This budget is the foundation for the new India... I am sure this budget will continue to lead our country's growth much faster along with welfare of the society with a strong focus on all sectors. This budget would also open a vast potential for all the foreign investment in all the businesses sector."

Major ports in the country have an installed capacity of 1,514.09 million tonne per annum as in March, 2019 and handled traffic of 699.09 MT during 2018-19.

As per the Economic Survey, "the average turnaround time in 2018-19 improved to 59.51 hrs as against 64.43 hrs in 2017-18. The average output per ship berth day has increased from 15,333 tonnes in 2017-18 to 16,541 tonnes in 2018-19."

India has 12 major ports -- Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), V O Chidambaranar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia).

These ports had recorded a marginal 0.98 per cent growth in cargo volumes at 524.02 million tonnes (MT) during the April-December 2019 period.

Commenting on Ports and shipping sector, K Ravichandran, Senior Vice President & Group Head, Corporate Ratings, ICRA said the announcement on waterways will make movement of freight and passengers cheaper.

"The announcement to continue support for the development of other inland waterways (apart from National Waterway 1) is a positive. Further, announced plans to corporatise at least one of the 12 major ports and subsequently list it on the exchanges is a positive step towards government disinvestment in the ports sector.

"However, as seen in previous years, the budget allocation to Sagarmala projects is lower than the cost of planned initiatives," he said.

The Sagarmala budget allocation for 2020-21 has accordingly been reduced to Rs 297 crore.
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