Santosh Patil on how the world’s largest democracy can develop into a maritime powerhouse.
The recently concluded INMARCO 2022, a quadrennial event hosted by the Institute of Marine Engineers (India), was an exciting concoction of action-packed conferences, participation from international attendees, policy makers, top shipping executives and high-level engagement by government authorities, flag administration and global regulatory bodies like IMO.
The event has been making its mark over the years with significant enhancements with each edition. The highlight of the 2022 event was however the qualitative engagement by the Government of India with the Minister of Ports Shipping & Waterways, Secretary – Shipping and the Indian flag administration closely interacting with the industry and listening to the trade needs, concerns and providing steadfast support to the industry. The event also witnessed the launch of National Centre of Excellence for Green Port & Shipping.
The three-day event was a big success with almost every session well attended by the industry stakeholders. Like all recent maritime conferences, the focus continued to be heavy on decarbonisation, achieving IMO goals, extensive deliberations on development of alternative fuels ecosystem apart from digitalisation and innovation initiatives.
Besides the technical sessions, the two sessions which were most awaited and stood out were the CEO’s Forum and Policy Makers Forum. These forums saw discussions on regulatory roadmap and industry views on market-based measures like green tax. Some of the interesting conversations included the talk on Global North, Global South and energy equity. One of the thoughts which echoed well across the conference hall was the need for an India voice to be heard in the global maritime forums.
A top-level executive at a leading shipyard mooted the idea of creating a ‘Maritime India’ brand. He called upon all stakeholders to converge together to present a Maritime India solution which was welcomed by all attendees.
While India as a maritime nation is relatively smaller than leading maritime hubs, it does have a strong and growing economy being the fifth largest in the world and its potential well acknowledged by leading economists and multilateral agencies. The recent rise in its international stature, amidst global uncertainty and supply chain disruption, only underscores the need for a strengthening its maritime sector.
Developing the Maritime India brand though will require long and concerted effort from all stakeholders. Leveraging the strong presence of Indian maritime diaspora is a critical component of this initiative.
It is well-known that the country which is one of the largest crew providers also has a strong global diaspora with senior executive level presence in all the leading maritime hubs. Indians have excelled in various walks of life, even lead several global multinational corporations and the maritime sector is no exception. Across the industry spectrum, be it shipowners, yards, managers, charterers, ports, marine insurance, equipment suppliers, they have proved their mettle and established themselves as credible voices within the industry.
While India acknowledges their successes, regular engagement with the diaspora both at regional and global level is necessary to give fillip to this important initiative. They have much to offer by way of providing global maritime insights, developing partnerships, facilitate conversations and be catalysts in strengthening the ‘Maritime India’ brand. With their global exposure they represent a valuable source of know-how and expertise apart from strong regional understanding in the respective part of the world.
The growth opportunities in Indian maritime sector are significant and if these global Indians are actively engaged, their work is celebrated and efforts are made to work with them through an outreach programme, Indian maritime sector has much to gain.