Seafarers, Central to the Way Forward for the Shipping Sector
The world woke up to the news that “evergreen” a large merchant ship stuck in the Suez Canal blocking ships’ passage and creating the worlds heaviest traffic jam. World trade came to a halt. The world had a sigh of relief when “Evergreen” could be moved, clearing the way for many ships stranded on both sides of the canal. It brings to the fore the importance of maritime trade the world over.
Maritime history dates back to millennia. People of the Indus Valley had maritime trade with Mesopotamia and Roman Empire. Boats laden with spices, textiles sailed all over the world over. During the British rule, Bombay Dockyard built a large number of ships for the Royal Navy and. The modern era of shipping in India started on April 5, 1919, when the first ship of The Scindia Steam Navigation Company Ltd, a shipping company owned by the Indian businessmen, had travelled from Bombay to London. To commemorate the day, the National Maritime Day is being celebrated on April 5 and started in 1964. India’s National Maritime Day is the culmination of the ‘Merchant Navy Week’. This day is also an occasion to recognise and honour seafarers’ contribution, organisations working towards the promotion of India’s national maritime industry. While India celebrates National Maritime Day on April 5, the World Maritime Day is observed annually on Thursday’s last week of September. The Indian Navy Day is celebrated on December 4. To raise awareness about the crucial role of oceans, June 8 is being observed as World Oceans Day.
More than 90% (by volume) of India’s external merchandise trade and about 77% by value moves upon the oceans. The number of vessels in the Indian Shipping Register has increased from 59 in the year 1947 to more than 1400, with the gross tonnage rising commensurately to over 12 million GRT. The Directorate General of Shipping records indicates that there are 43 shipping companies. The Ministry of Shipping regulates India’s maritime transport and shipping and policies and programmes. Also, it has jurisdiction over national waterways, inland water transport, ports, and shipyards. In 1959, India became an associate of the International Maritime Organisation, which is for maritime protection and preventing ships’ pollution. The National Maritime Foundation established in 2005 as the nation’s first maritime think-tank for conducting independent and policy-relevant research on ‘matters maritime’.
With its vast peninsula jutting a thousand kilometres into the heart of the Indian Ocean, India needs to leverage its enviable maritime geography to ensure and assure the economic, material, and societal well-being of its people. The heroic role is being played by Indian merchant mariners the world over. It is time to salute all those dedicated seafarers, brave parents, wives, children, and family members. They endure protracted separation in the national cause. Indian Government has initiated the process of connecting the major coastal cities by “Sagar Mala”. Indian navy plays a crucial role in protecting its maritime borders.
It is time to salute all those in the service of the world, connecting different destinations and exchanging goods and making the world a well-connected place.