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India opens sea routes to boost trade with neighbours

| | New Delhi
India opens sea routes to boost trade with neighbours

India has embarked on an ambitious exercise to open the sea route for cargo trade to neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh. With the ambitious aim of increasing coastal trade by four times, the first cargo vessel was flagged off from Chennai to Yangon on Tuesday.

In the second stage, the Ministry of Shipping plans to start similar sea trade routes to Bangladesh, Vietnam and Thailand.

 India has a coastline of over 7,000 kms, yet coastal shipping in the country is still in its infancy with a fleet of about 700 ships accounting for just about a million Gross Tonnage or 10 per cent of the total Indian tonnage. The Government wants to increase capacity by 400 per cent by 2020.

The bi-monthly India-Myanmar cargo service, which will link South and East coasts of India will start from Chennai and reach Yangon via Krishnapatnam. State-run Shipping Corporation of

India has deployed a 1,200 TEU (20 feet equivalent unit) vessel, which will connect the ports. “By connecting the services to Myanmar, we have also opened a way to reach the north-eastern States of India,” said an official from the Ministry of Shipping.

“By using northern Myanmar, one can easily connect Mizoram and other north-eastern States through Sittwe port in Myanmar, located in the Bay of Bengal just at the mouth of Kaladan River,” he said.

The Government is hoping that the project started by the Shipping Corporation of India will sustain its services in the long run and profits will start coming in.

 “Once the traders develop faith in the services, then they will start using the sea route for trade, which will lead to further expansion of services,” said the official.

“We are also in advance talks with the Government of Bangladesh and we are hoping to start cargo shipping by the year end,” he said.

The Government is positive that these sea trade services will boost bilateral business relations between India and its neighbouring countries by providing immense opportunities for manufacturers, importers and exporters from both ends.

“This service will open new avenues to the traders to the growing markets in India and its neighbours,” said the official.

The Centre wants to develop a strong network of ports just like the European Union. “The Government will take steps to work out a similar arrangement with neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam by next year,” said the official.



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