New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday announced setting up of new ports at eastern and western coasts and said the thrust of the shipping sector would also be on waterways as well as port-led economic development through project Sagarmala.
"We are planning to develop new greenfield ports both in the eastern and western coasts of the country. The work on the National Waterways is also being expedited. Rs 800 crore has been provided for these initiatives," Jaitley said while tabling the Budget in Parliament on Monday.
The Sagarmala project has already been rolled out, he said, adding that government has initiated a series of steps to modernise and expand the capacity of its 12 major ports.
Under its ambitious Sagarmala project, the government is looking to mobilise at least Rs 10 lakh crore investment, including Rs 4 lakh crore in the infrastructure sector alone.
The Finance Minister also announced that the Customs Act is being amended to provide for deferred payment of customs duties for certain class of importers and exporters and "in consultations with Ministry of Shipping, the facility of direct port delivery is being extended to more importers."
Jaitley further said, "In 2014-15 Budget, I had announced the intent to implement Indian Customs Single Window Project. We have made significant progress in this and it would be implemented at major ports and airports starting from beginning of next financial year."
In 2015, India's major ports have handled the highest ever quality of cargo.
"We have also added the highest ever capacity in major ports. We have started a series of measures for modernising the ports and increasing their efficiency," Jaitley said.
Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari termed the Budget as a landmark Budget and said it will pave the way for
unprecedented growth in the sector. "We will set up three new major ports - at Colachel in Tamil Nadu, Sagar in West Bengal and Dahanur in Maharashtra," Gadkari said.
He said the bill to convert 111 rivers into national waterways was likely to get Parliament nod this week. Gadkari said while Rs 800 crore provision has been made towards waterways sector, another Rs 800 crore can be raised through issuance of tax-free bonds.
"Provisions of Rs 1,600 crore for shipping and waterways will give a tremendous boost to the sector," he added.
To encourage movement for goods and passengers via waterways, the Cabinet last year had approved the plans for enactment of a legislation for converting 111 river stretches across the country into national waterways.
Only five of the river-stretches have been declared as 'national waterways' so far.
India has 12 major ports -- Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Ennore, V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) which handle approximately 61 per cent of the country's total cargo traffic.