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Sagarmala Programme


In India, the maritime sector has been the backbone of the country's trade and has grown exponentially over the years. The Government of India has launched the ambitious Sagarmala Programme to promote port-led development in the country, leveraging India's 7,500 km long coastline, 14,500 km of potentially navigable waterways, and strategic location on key international maritime trade routes.

On March 25, 2015, the Union Cabinet approved the Sagarmala concept. A National Perspective Plan (NPP) for the comprehensive development of India's coastline and maritime sector is included as part of the programme.


The Sagarmala Programme's vision is to reduce logistics costs for EXIM and domestic trade while investing in minimal infrastructure.

This includes the following:

  • lowering the cost of domestic cargo transportation by locating future industrial capacity near the coast

  • Increasing export competitiveness through the development of port-proximate discrete manufacturing clusters

  • EXIM container movement time/cost optimization

The Sagarmala Program is made up of five major components, which are as follows:

  • Port Development and modernisation-Because more than 90% of India's trade by volume is conducted via the country's maritime route, there is an ongoing need to develop India's ports and trade-related infrastructure in order to accelerate manufacturing growth and support the 'Make in India' initiative. The Central and State Governments of India administer 12 major ports and approximately 200 minor ports.

  • Enhancement of Port Connectivity -Connectivity is a critical enabler for ports, and the end-to-end effectiveness of the logistics system drives maritime industry competitiveness. The cumulative capacity available at ports can match demand with the addition of new technology and capacity building, but it will not be able to handle additional traffic if evacuation to and from the port is restricted. It is therefore critical that connectivity between major ports and the hinterland be improved not only to ensure smooth traffic flow at the current level, but also to meet the requirements of projected traffic growth. Surface transport, such as road and rail, dominates India's hinterland connectivity, with domestic waterways (coastal shipping and inland waterways) playing a minor role. The Sagarmala Programme aims to improve connectivity between ports and domestic production/consumption centres.

  • Port led Industrialisation-The Sagarmala Programme's vision is to reduce logistics costs and time for EXIM and domestic cargo movement. Future development of port-proximate industrial capacity near the coast is a step in this direction. Coastal Economic Zones (CEZs), Coastal Economic Units (CEUs), Port-Linked Industrial & Maritime Clusters, and Smart Industrial Port Cities have all been introduced in this context. Each CEZ will be made up of multiple CEUs, and each CEU may house more than one industrial cluster. There may be several manufacturing units within each industrial cluster. To expedite the CEU development process, it is proposed that CEUs be prioritised in areas with available land parcels near a deep draught port and strong manufacturing potential.

  • Community led Development- Approximately 18 percent of India’s population lives in the 72 coastal districts that comprise 12 percent of India’s mainland. The development of coastal communities through marine sector-related activities such as fisheries, maritime tourism, and skill development is a key goal of the Sagarmala Programme. Other activities being actively considered under the Sagarmala Programme include cruise tourism development and lighthouse tourism.

  • Promotion of Inland shipping-Despite having an extensive network of inland waterways in the form of rivers, canals, backwaters and creeks freight transportation by waterways is highly under-utilized. Waterways currently account for about 6% of India's transportation modal mix, which is significantly lower than in developed and some developing economies. Having dedicated infrastructure will help to promote coastal shipping as a mode of freight transportation. As a result, infrastructure at ports and supporting infrastructure such as rail/road and waterways are being built to facilitate coastal movement. These include the construction of dedicated coastal berths, bunkering and storage at ports, and the development of supporting hinterland transportation infrastructure with last-mile connectivity.

Critical Evaluation

There has been significant progress in major port capacity augmentation, with installed capacity increasing by 79 percent to 1,561 million tonnes per year from 871.5 MT in 2014-15.

Waiting times for inbound and outbound cargo have also been reduced, with the overall turnaround time dropping from 96 hours in 2014-15 to 52.80 hours.

Ports gain efficiency by implementing measures for easy data flow, such as direct port entry, direct port delivery, and an upgraded port community system.

Inland waterways are being developed because moving a cargo by river costs ten times less than moving it by congested highways.

Multimodal terminals built along the Ganges at Varanasi, Sahibganj, and Haldia allow goods to be transported to northeastern states via Bangladesh.

Despite these gains, overall progress has been sporadic, particularly in government-run major ports, due to land acquisition issues, insufficient fund mobilisation, and limited private sector investment in key areas such as port modernization, among other factors.


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