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The secrets of success for the Indian shipping industry

November 5, 2013 MICE No Comments Email Email

Almost 300 senior Indian and international maritime professionals gathered in Mumbai for a lively 9thIndia Shipping Summit, organised jointly by Seatrade and TradeWinds, in the new venue of the Palladium Hotel, Mumbai.

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Against a tough economic backdrop, forty industry experts set out to determine the real shipping issues holding India back, the potential that exists, and more importantly, the secret for success.

In an open debate format, hosted by international journalist and broadcaster, Nisha Pillai, executives from across the industry discussed the major factors holding Indian shipping back.  Nigel Bell, Managing Director, Bell Shipping Ltd, said, “India’s shipping is not on a level playing field, Indian owners are paying taxes and their international competitors are not.” He suggested that India should set up an international ship register and that Indian shipping must be allowed to thrive in a tax-free environment.

Ravi Mehrotra CBE, Executive Chairman, Foresight Group, felt, “The root cause needs to be cured first, with India’s haphazard growth and an unbalanced economy. He also said that one of the key problems was, “Indian shipping is not entrepreneurial, unlike Greek shipping and if I had started here thirty years ago, and not in London, I would have failed in 2 years!”

Dr Anil Sharma, Founder, President & CEO, GMS also felt that India shipping, as an international business, has deeper root problems, such as no strategic plan. “India shipping needs to move away from the think tank… and move to a do tank. In a theme that was echoed by many, he went on to say, “The shipping industry is fragmented and all the sectors need to come together. The industry must steer the government”.

Anil Devli, COO Commercial, Indian Register of Shipping & former CEO, Indian National Shipowners’ Association, suggested, “the government should leave the industry alone, as legislation and bureaucracy is killing Indian shipping”. However, looking to the future, “We need to set up supply chains, create infrastructure and develop our coastal shipping.”

An international perspective was provided by Peter Hinchliffe, Secretary General, International Chamber of Shipping & International Shipping Federation, “All the key shipping centres worldwide have government support in common.  Without that, the fight for domestic market is so much harder. The Indian shipping industry needs long-term passion and a strong lobbying voice.”

As the two days of discussion developed, across the different maritime sectors including, Ports, Offshore, LNG, Oil & Gas, Coal, Finance and Shipbuilding, themes began to emerge, allowing delegates to piece together what may be the secret to winning in maritime India. India has all the ingredients to grow. Speakers talked about building on its strengths; harnessing its trained manpower, both in shipbuilding and crewing; working more closely with the professional financial system; taking advantage of the country’s long coastline; and capitalising on India’s strong trading position.

In what could be the first ideas of a blueprint plan for India’s shipping industry, a series of actions were outlined in the summary of the Summit; to bring together all sections of the industry as one voice and set up a fully integrated maritime services cluster; lobby the government to ensure a level playing field so that Indian owners can compete; introduce a tax-free flag; set up Mumbai as maritime hub to compete with Singapore and Hong Kong; and perhaps most importantly, energise the will to move forward as an industry and as a country.

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