National Maritime Day

IAS Prelims 2023

April 5 marks the National Maritime Day of India. On this day in 1919 navigation history was created when SS Loyalty, the first ship of the Scindia Steam Navigation Company, journeyed to the United Kingdom. The National Maritime Day was first celebrated on 5th April, 1964.

The strategic geographical position of the Indian sub-continent with vast expanse of the seas around naturally led to seafaring even in the days of the Indus Valley civilisation dating back to circa 3000 BC. Since time immemorial Indians have displayed a remarkable interest in seafaring and maritime activities. The shipbuilding industry in India had shown great progress so long as sailing ships with wooden hull were in vogue.

Since the dawn of history Indians have participated in international sea-borne commerce. The advent of Europeans opened India’s coasts for trade and commerce. After Independence Indian shipping began to progress at a rapid pace. The Indian Navy, which is responsible for guarding the country’s shores and protecting our shipping in times of war, has also considerably expanded and strengthened into a potent force.

Maritime history goes back to the hoary past. Because no country has jurisdiction over the seas, it has been necessary for nations to reach agreements regarding ways of dealing with ships, crews and cargoes when disputes arise. The London-based International Maritime Organisation is the United Nation’s specialised agency responsible for improving maritime safety and preventing pollution from ships. The Organisation also convenes international maritime conferences and drafts international maritime conventions from time to time. IMO has 158 countries as its members, India became its member in 1959.

India has about 7516 kilometres of coastline serviced by a total of 182 ports, 12 of them under a special status as Major Ports being under the purview of the Central Government. Seventy other ports termed as minor ones come under the jurisdiction of the respective State Governments. Ennore in Tamil Nadu has been declared as the 12th Major Port.

The Indian Ports Act (IPA), 1908 is the governing Act which defines the jurisdiction of Central and State Governments over ports. The Act empowers the respective governments in administering and developing the ports. The Act also provides for private sector participation in a Government-controlled port.

The Major Port Trusts Act (MPTA), 1963 defines the administrative framework for Major Ports. Major Ports are autonomous bodies, managed by Board of Trustees under the overall control of the Central Government through the Ministry of Shipping. At the time of enactment of MPTA Act in 1963, six Major Ports: Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi, Kandla and Visakhapatnam- were in existence. Paradip, Tuticorin, New Mangalore, Marmugao and Jawaharlal Nehru Ports were included in this group of Major Ports after 1963. Further, Haldia Dock was developed by 1977 under the jurisdiction of Kolkata Port Trust.

The States administer the minor ports either through State Maritime Board (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal) or through State Government Departments. Maritime Boards have structures and power to a large extent similar to those of Board of Trustees in a Major Port.

Presently, 90 per cent of India’s international trade in terms of volume and 77 per cent in terms of value is moved by sea. India continues to have the largest merchant shipping fleet among the developing countries and ranks 17th in the world in terms of shipping tonnage. Hence, the importance of Maritime Day. On this day, the country renews its abiding faith in the importance of maritime zone as well as sea route for an all-round development of the nation. The country also resolves to protect, preserve and defend its maritime zone and right to navigate in the high seas and international zones.