The issue was raised at the inaugural session of the Indian Shipping Summit by Varun Shipping Company MD Udhishthir Khatau, who pointed out that the Reliance Industries Limited, Anil Ambani Reliance Group and the Tatas have announced their intention to start shipping lines for captive use and had decided to register their ships abroad.
With the dire need of increasing the gross tonnage of Indian carriers from the current level of nine million tonnes to 15 million tonnes with in the next five to six years, there was need for more Indian ships to be registered. But the main hinderance was the taxation policy of the Indian government that was loaded against the Indian fleet. Mr Khatau wanted the National Shipowners Association also to intervene and take up the issue.
There was need for the Union Finance Minsitry take up with the Big three to avoid their ships carrying foreign flags, Mr Khatau said.
Union Secretary for Shipping A P V N Sharma and National Shipowners Association President Sabyasachi Hajara said that they would take up the issue with the Ministry of Finance.
Several indian shipowners echoed the sentiments of Mr Katau and wanted a level playing field for the Indian ship owners who were at disadvantage when compared to the overseas fleet as far as taxation was concerned.
Currently the Indian fleet had a share of 12 per cent of the international trade in the country and to maintain the level till 2011 an investment of 20 billion dollars need to be made to acquire new fleet. According to some of the delegates, atleast ships with a gross tonnage of around one million tonne and owned by Indians were sailing under foreign flags. The tax regimes of Singapore, Manila or Panama are conducive, when compared to India they lamented.
Concerns were also raised at the lack of interest shown by foreign shipyards in favourably responding to the 100 per cent FDI announced for shipyards by the government. Not even a single dollar had been invested by the foreigners, Mr Hajara said.
A senior official of the Ministry told the sources that with adequate orders in their bag, none of the foreign shipyards are looking at India. There has to be some more effort in this regard by the Union government, they added.
The government had two years ago wanted private partnership to build to massive shipyards, on either side of the east and west coast and set up nodal agencies in Ennore Port and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port trust for taking up the project so far. But there had been no further development yet. Each port was expected to cost around Rs 2,500 crore, the official said.
The Cochin shipyard which has sizeable order on hand was planning an IPO to meet its expansion needs. The requirement could be in the order of Rs 800 to Rs 1,000 crore. The nitty gritty for the IPO was being worked out the official said.