The rise in incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia is one of the biggest challenges the shipping sector is facing currently, shipping minister GK Vasan said on Saturday.
"The shipping sector has been facing many challenges in recent times. One of the biggest challenges is the rise in incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia," Vasan said at the valedictory function of Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI).
The shipping ministry has been working in close coordination with the ministry of external affiars (MEA), the Indian Navy and international agencies to tackle this menace, Vasan said.
"Recently, we have issued guidelines for engaging armed guards from private security agencies on-board Indian flag ships," he said.
On the company, Vasan said, "Since its inception in 1961, SCI has witnessed steady and robust growth. Today it is a world-class shipping company, having its footprint in most of the segments of the shipping industry serving India's trade. Its modern fuel-efficient fleet accounts for nearly one-third of the country's tonnage."
The UPA has taken various initiatives to strengthen the port infrastructure and capacity and also augment the tonnage of Indian shipping, the minister said.
"In the last two years, 22 PPP projects have been awarded at an estimated cost of Rs 14,178 crore. The first phase of the Fourth Container Terminal in JNPT for creation of a capacity of 4.8 million TEUs, which is one of the largest in the country, has been awarded recently," he said.
"In order to tackle marine accidents and the consequent oil pollution, we are issuing a notification regulating the movement of ships over 25 years of age. I am confident that these restrictions will make our coastline safer and cleaner," Vasan said.
SCI, as a flag bearer of Indian shipping, has the onerous responsibility to lead the shipping fraternity and make India one of the top maritime nations in the world, the minister added.