Effective Port Management: Essential for Skill development

Author: Capt Gajanan Karanjikar (Master Mariner, Multi-Modal transport expert, End to End logistics Professional, Blue Economy- Social activist)

India is essentially a maritime nation whose maritime history dates back to 7,000 BC. However we are yet to establish a maritime culture in India on priority. There was a time when Indians were masters of the seaborne trades of Europe, Asia and Africa. They built ships, navigated the seas, and held in their hands all the threads of international commerce, whether carried overland or by sea.

The ports where these activities took place were an essential element of this human construct, which was remarkable and an epitome of global evolution, economic growth, and innovation. With 70.8% of the global surface covered by water, seaports reflect a sovereign nation’s political superiority and financial prosperity. Historically, the rise and fall of empires has been associated with seaports, either through naval battles at times of war, or through sea trade and transport in times of peace. In fact superpowers and robust economies even now show their long-standing strength and dominance through their seaports.

Global seaborne trade has now reached 11.08 billion tonnes, of which 4.5 billion tonnes were loaded and 6.9 tonnes were unloaded, with Asian and Oceanian developing economies contributing most to that share, and a world capacity of 2.1 billion DWT. Containers, some brands of which are a household name now, have a global port traffic of 811 million TEUs per annum, becoming the primary function of cargo-handling in ports.

Ports are thus the pillars of global economy, trade, and transport: 80% of global commodities are carried by water; over 9,000 seaports, harbours and inland waterways, and multiple terminals per port facilitate world trade, serviced by over 50,000 oceangoing ships, while generating over 30% of the global GDP on an annual basis.

The maritime industry has an enormous depth & wealth of knowledge. The perspective revolves around its economy and it has at-par competence that is being challenged through an ever changing and dynamic environment around which it works. The plethora of science and arts in the maritime sector is highly competitive and involves global thinking and economics. The professionals working in the industry need to possess both practical and theoretical knowledge of as many disciplines as possible, including strategic thinking; global economics; political science; laws and regulations on safety, security, the environment, and so on; trade agreements among countries; contracts; naval architecture; novel ship designs; emerging technologies; engineering; navigation; marketing; risk management; emergency response; incident investigation & root cause analysis; oceanography and weather studies; operations; bunkering; the energy markets; major global commodities; logistics; and so much more.

In this day and age, with rapid changing dynamics of global economy and fading borders between countries, the role of modern ports and sea trade is more crucial than ever. The competitive edge requirement has put every single port on global benchmarking. Even the smallest port on the global map needs to be thinking and implementing innovative solutions to offer the best of the customer experience. The necessity for innovation, energy efficiency, and economic efficiency, probably has never before been more compelling.

The new era will signify new trade routes and new strategic ports, determined by outsourcing, insourcing, and global production/consumption distribution patterns.

In this series I intend to write about port sector’s structure, hinterland connectivity, logistics requirements, management and economic growth, plus innovations that are envisaged. We will also look at port strategy as well as port operations from a team building perspective, and at marketing of port services.

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