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The Narendra Modi led-government has initiated steps aimed at "corporatising" India's major ports and has started the process for appointment of a world-class consultant to come out with a draft report for amendments in the relevant act to do so.
The move is aimed at infusing professionalism in the major ports in order to make them compete with private sector ports as well empower financial autonomy.
"Process for appointment of a world class consultant has been initiated," shipping ministry said while fixing a deadline of October 30 for appointment of consultant and coming out with draft amendments to Major Ports Trust Act, 1963.
The development follows the Prime Minister taking a review of the sector last month in which the issue was raised.
The Ministry, an official said, is hopeful of getting cabinet nod on the proposal in the next seven months after consultations on draft amendments with the stakeholders and its vetting by Legislative department by November 30.
Once the ports get corporate structure by conversion into entities under the Companies Act, they will have financial and operational autonomy, the official said. India has 12 major ports - Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Managlore, Cochin, Chennai, Ennore, VO Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) handle approximately 61% of cargo traffic.
Of these Ennore port was established as a company, while others run as statutory public trusts.
To revamp country's top 12 ports, the Centre has already asked them to prepare land data base by October and come up with concrete plans by January next year to achieve international operating standards.
The directions were issued by Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari, who has asked all major ports to come up with a shelf of projects to augment their capacity to 1600 million tonnes (MT) from the present 800 MT.
The major ports in India have between them 2.64 lakh acres of land, which is a major resource and can be understood from the fact that only Mumbai Port Trust has about 753 hectares of land with it, valued at about Rs 46,000 crore.
The government has also said that a "level playing field" will be prepared for major ports in order to give them freedom to fix tariff at par with non-major ports.
The development comes in the backdrop of non-major ports eating into the share of major ports as there is no parity in the regulation mechanism between the major port trusts and the non-major ports.