Ahmedabad 15/DEC/2014: Gujarat Government\'s ambitious plan to set up India\'s first maritime cluster in the state has got an impetus with its one-day International Conference on Maritime Clusters in Gujarat held in the The Courtyard by Mariott, Ahmedabad on Friday, 12th December, 2014. It was an knowledge sharing session amongst representatives from various sectors related to all area of shipping sectors like shipyards, ports, finance institutions, legal firms, as well as ship-breakers, charterers, forwarders etc. Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (Dubai) and Norway\'s Maritime Forum joins hands for a strategic partnership with the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) for the project. ICS, Dubai and the Maritime Norway signed memorandum of understandings (MoUs) with the GMB at the international conference on maritime clusters. The Government is working on developing a central cluster for maritime sector. All kinds of maritime services such as shipping lines, shipping agents, freight agencies, finance firms, maritime education & institutes, would be available at the cluster. The cluster has to be essentially close to a big urban centre, and would come up either in Ahmedabad or Surat, said Mr A K Rakesh, IAS, Vice Chairman and CEO of Gujarat Maritime Board. Mr Rakesh was speaking on the sidelines of an international conference on Maritime Clusters in Gujarat. Location of the cluster is not yet finalised, but sources said there is a very strong chance of it coming up in Ahmedabad. Surat has a port, but it doesnt have the supporting infrastructure which Ahmedabad has. GIFT City is one place where all the soft infrastructure related services could be made available, Mr Rakesh said. He added that the cluster is still on the drawing board and it would be developed over the next two to three years. A Maritime University is also being planned. We have invited bids for feasibility study and project management work for the university, he said. Rakesh also said that a separate shipping cluster, which would house shipbuilding, ship maintenance, and other facilities, is being planned around Jamnagar or Kutch. There could be more port-specific clusters, he said.
Gujarat handles more cargo than any other maritime state in the country. However, there is no organised geographic concentration of maritime services in the state. As a result, the business generated from maritime sector, which should ideally remain in the country, goes to either Dubai or Singapore. The realisation is the reason why the Government has started work on developing a maritime cluster in the state. Maritime cluster is an agglomeration of firms, institutions, business and other industry players in the maritime sector that are geographically located close to each other and have a synergy between their activities. The cluster in Gujarat aims to set up soft infrastructure related to maritime activities by attracting shipping firms, insurance companies, maritime lawyers, chartering firms, bankers, agents etc to set up their offices here. Mr H K Dash, Secretary, Inter-State Council, Government of India, said that there are 41 maritime-related activities other than just port development that need to be brought under one roof. Companies wanting to come to Gujarat\'s maritime cluster must be given proper incentives and more importantly, there should be enough business generated to make this model sustainable, Mr Dash said. Gujarat Maritime Board also released report on Roadmap on the development of Maritime Clusters in Gujarat. Maritime Forum of Norway, which represents the entire maritime sector of the Scandinavian country, will provide the know how to set up the cluster and other soft infrastructure. The maritime cluster will develop the soft infrastructure needed for the ports in Gujarat. For instance, the cluster will house shipping related business activities like shipping agents, chartering agents, freight forwarders, maritime lawyers, ship financing agencies and other services. At present, all these services are being given to ports of Gujarat by agencies who are either based in cities like Mumbai and Chennai in India or at overseas locations like Dubai, Singapore and Colombo, Mr Rakesh remarked. This cluster is not capital intensive and can be set up in a few multi-storied buildings as it exists in Dubai, Mr Rakesh added.
Mr. Raj Gopal, IAS, Principal Secretary, Ports & Transport Department said The concept is relatively new to India. Therefore, to better understand the best practises across the world and gauge the pulse of the stakeholders on the need for clusters, the Gujarat Maritime Board is organising an international conference on maritime cluster with intent to involve Industry, leading maritime cluster organisations and experts in Maritime cluster at conceptualisation stage itself. He further said that To take the initiative forward, the Gujarat Maritime Board have engaged in active talks with the following international organisations to collaborate with Gujarat Government for development of maritime cluster. Mr Krishna B Kotak, Chairman, J M Baxi & Co., in his remarkable speech projected on the various aspects in shipping sector like, connectivity, skill development as well as total infrastructure for the upliftment in coming days. Chief Guest Mr. Masahiro Uesono, Director for the Office of International Affairs, Shipbuilding and Ship Machinery Division; Maritime Bureau, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism , Special Guests Mr. Helge Grobaek (Maritime Forum South of Norway and the Srlandet Shipowners Association, Norwegian Maritime Cluster), Mr. Job Glass, Chief Representative, Netherlands Business Support Office, and Mr. Krishna Prasad Managing Director, Aster Marine, Dubai & Education Officer, Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, Dubai branch and other shipping stalwarts projected their knowledge on important issues such as the key factors and pre-conditions for successful maritime clusters around the globe, concerns of shipping service providers and stakeholders of maritime clusters, planning and design aspects of maritime clusters, role of Government in development of a maritime cluster and scope of ports as the core agency to facilitate development of maritime clusters will be deliberated upon.