‘Using ships to transport coal can make power cheaper’

Union Minister for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari wants to reboot both his ministries and provide solutions for a variety of problems. In an interview, he provided an update on the problems being tackled by his ministries. Edited excerpts:

The shipping industry is shackled by too many laws and bylaws, what is the solution for this?

The Ministry has already formulated a model Merchant Shipping Bill, which has amalgamated all the existing laws. Old and outdated concepts have been deleted from the Bill.

The Director General of Shipping had recently held a workshop with 200 stakeholders for working out the finer details of the Bill. By December, a note would be placed in front of the Union Cabinet and the Bill would be introduced in the Winter Session. The Act formulated out of the Bill would be of international standards and will have a high degree of transparency. The Act will keep the Indian shipping competitive in the global market.

How are you planning to address the problems facing the Sethusamudram Project? Will some solution emerge by December?

Ram Setu is a part of people’s devotion, therefore breaking or affecting the ancient bridge is out of the question. Five alternative routes have been worked out. A presentation has been made to the Prime Minister, once he gives the clearance, a final decision would be taken and the Supreme Court would be apprised about it. Some solution will emerge soon.

How do you view the working of Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP) regime as major ports have stepped up their campaign for the abolition of TAMP?

We will find out a fresh alternative and then completely scrap TAMP. I am not in favour of TAMP and do not have a good opinion about it.

Will your Ministry's plan of transporting coal from Eastern India to power stations in Western India using ships become viable? What will be the impact on power tariffs?

In Talcher, Odisha, the mines controlled by Mahanadi Coalfield plan to hike their yearly production from 50 million tonnes to 300 million tonnes, which would require large-scale evacuation of coal. Therefore, the Shipping Ministry would be able to transport the coal from Talcher to Paradip port in West Bengal. A new Rs. 4,000 crore rail line would be built between these two nodes by the Indian Port Rail Corporation, which is controlled by the Ministry.

The coal arriving at Paradip would be then laden onto cargo vessels and then shipped to the power projects in 13 States. Transporting of coal will become very efficient due to the use of cargo vessels. Electricity from these plants would be cheaper by Rs. 1-1.50 per unit.

What is the status of the Greenfield port developments in the country?

We want to set up new ports at Wadhwan in Maharashtra, Sagar island in West Bengal and Colachel in Tamil Nadu.

Again by December we will move a note before the Union Cabinet for further developing these ports.

You have managed to fast-track the stalled highways projects of NHAI but what about your ministry's plans for planting millions of trees along the highways?

The current project cost of the highways across the country is aboutRs. 5 lakh crore.

Out of this, one per cent, that works out to about Rs. 5,000 crore, has been reserved for planting trees along the highways.

This amount will help us plant, beautify and maintain the trees.

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