Place : Hotel Cambay, Gandhinagar
Speech Date :26-11-2011
- Gujarat carry almost 35% of India’s sea cargo. It has a National Port and the first two world-class private ports in the country
- We have decided to create a marine commando unit & a Maritime Police Academy.
- Sagar Khedu Yojna has been successful for all round development of our coastal belt.
Mr Justice Gaswaga, Supreme Court of Seychelles,
Ambassador Mr Thomas Winkler,
distinguished representatives of various countries, and international organizations,
Excellencies, speakers, delegates, ladies and gentlemen!
It gives me immense pleasure to be here at this forum. On behalf of the people of the State, I welcome you all to Gujarat. This conference is very appropriately placed in Gujarat, both in view of State’s maritime Geography and maritime History. You may have noted that Gujarat, situated on the western coast of India, is a principal Maritime State of the country. It is blessed with the longest coastline of India which is 1600 km long. It is the nearest maritime gateway from India to the Middle East, Europe and Africa. At the same time, Gujarat has a long maritime history. Our people crossed the seven seas centuries ago in search of Global opportunities. We have the remains of our centuries-old ports on our coastline. In recent years again, we have started pursuing Port-led Development with comprehensive policies and well defined strategies. I, therefore, compliment GNLU for organizing this conference here. I am really impressed with the galaxy of experts and resource persons who are going to deliberate during this conference. I congratulate you all for making use of this occasion to find ways for a long standing problem in Human History.
Friends! sea-based travel and trading system is one of the oldest modes of exchange in the Human civilization. Even today, it continues to be the most economical form of travel and transport. That is the reason that all nations want greater sea based access to resources and markets. All this is becoming even better through the help of modern technology. At the same time, the vast size and largely unregulated nature of the waterways have made the maritime environment an attractive theatre for trans-national violence. Both piracy and sea-borne terrorism have become more common in last few decades. This has further gone up due to global proliferation of small arms. All this has added to the maritime vulnerabilities.
Recently, the menace of terrorism has added particularly to the problem. Several terrorist groups have developed significant capability to conduct attacks at sea, under the sea and more recently from the sea. These terrorist groups have kept pace with modern navigation and communication technologies. They have developed innovative ways to challenge the security and maritime forces. Some analysts also fear that they may soon exploit the freight trading system to trigger a global economic crisis. They may also use the container supply chain to transport weapons of mass destruction.
The rise and decline of piracy is linked, among other factors, to the development of political structures on land. There is a nexus between organized piracy, criminal networks and governance on land. Thus, though maritime supply chain is the most economical, at the same time, it is quite vulnerable. Securing safe supply chains therefore presents an enormous challenge for the globalized world. States have invested significant political, diplomatic and military resources to ensure this safety. In addition to piracy and terrorism, Climate change and Global warming are also expected to have a huge impact as they can alter the national boundaries. With the rise in sea levels, coastlines may shift or submerge. This, in turn, could lead to various claims relating to maritime boundaries.
The success in exploring the immense maritime potential, will depend upon national commitment and responses. However, all this cannot happen to an optimal extent without international commitment and unanimity for safety and security. For this purpose, a sound international legal framework and a comprehensive policy regime are essential. The legal framework must balance the needs, concerns and interests of all stakeholder countries whether coastal or landlocked. We also need to enhance inter-agency consultations and have a broader vision to protect everyone’s interests.
India has a central position in the Indian Ocean system. It has an extensive range of interests in the coastal and the marine activities in the Asia-Pacific. They include smooth and freer navigation, protection of strategic and security interests and free mobility of its fishing boats and naval ships. India is also producing million of tons of crude from its sea bound oil fields. India’s current strategy is to build self-reliance in offshore exploration. India is one of the pioneer investors with France, Japan and Russia. It has been allotted a mine site in the central Indian Ocean to carry out seabed exploration activities for recovery of polymetalic nodules.
Friends, currently about 95% of India’s foreign trade (in volume) and 70% (in value) is carried through sea routes. Billions of rupees worth of infrastructure has been created to cater to this industry in India. The State of Gujarat has been the leader in this sector. We already carry almost 35% of India’s sea cargo. In addition to a National Port, Gujarat has the first two world-class private ports in the country. We created India’s first chemical terminal and also the first LNG terminal at Dahej. We have also started the first double stack container train at Pipavav. However, we are always keen to take further advantage of our maritime location. Therefore, we have planned integrated development of coastal areas including new ports, and the required road and rail links. We have taken lead in developing several forms of port infrastructure and services, including in the private sector. Our Port Policy statement spells out an explicit strategy of port-led development.
Friends! the legal framework is an important issue. However, in my view, the real answer to maritime safety involves three more aspects. The first is people’s development; the second is their skills and the third is technology. We have to work on the people first. We have to enhance the economic wellbeing of the coastal population. We have to ensure port led development of the coastal regions of the world. This is necessary, if the oceans of the world are to be made the gateways for welfare of the global community. I will give you some examples of what we have done in Gujarat. We have encouraged integrated coastal development particularly of the Coastal communities. We have launched an ambitious programme for all round development of our coastal belts (Sagar Khedu Yojna). Along with this, we are setting up new port cities in coastal locations. Investments in world class rail-road-pipeline infrastructure linking the coastline have helped Gujarat’s ports dominate India’s maritime scenario. But the development of the communities in the coastal regions is the key to the peace and prosperity of Gujarat’s port based transactions.
Friends, capacity building of the relevant people is another key to security. To strengthen its security apparatus along the coastline, Gujarat government has decided to create a marine commando unit and recruit 600 personnel for it. In addition to 10 existing coastal police stations, we have proposed additional 12 coastal police stations. 31 mechanized 12-tonne boats have also been sanctioned. We are also thinking to establish Maritime Police Academy in Gujarat. The academy will provide a coastal safety force from the current pool of police officers. It will also educate fishermen in identifying threats in their localities. The State Government has initiated coordination with Coast Guard and Indian Navy for this purpose.
On the technology front, we have to take advantage of the present day technologies. We in Gujarat are quite committed on this front. A significant step has been the setting up of the state- of-the-art Vessel Traffic and Management System (VTMS) in the Gulf of Khambat. The radar based system will track movement of each vessel on the high seas along Gujarat’s coasts. This will not only ensure safe navigation of hazardous cargo, but also help in detecting any untoward activity or intrusions in Gujarat waters. The system was operationalized in the Gulf of Khambat in August 2010. Similar system is under implementation at the Gulf of Kutch. To increase security at ports, ISPS code is being implemented at Gujarat ports. Our Government is keen to ensure that the latest measures and technologies are implemented at its ports to make Gujarat’s waters safe and welcoming.
I hope this Seminar will be very useful for bringing out the issues of policy and practice on piracy and coastal security. I wish all success to this event. I expect to hear valuable take-away points for improving coastal security in our State, Country and of course, globally.
I wish you a pleasant stay in Gujarat and this beautiful city of Gandhinagar.