Question:- 121. Why is the maritime sector important for India? Briefly discuss the challenges associated with the maritime sector of India. Answer in 250 words.
Nov 22, 2022


India comprises a significant size maritime sector with 12 Major and 200+ Non-Major Ports situated along its 7500 km long coastline and a vast network of navigable waterways. The country’s maritime sector plays a crucial role in its overall trade and growth, with 95% of the country’s trade volume and 65% of the trade value being undertaken through maritime transport.

India is one of the world’s top 5 ship recycling countries and holds 30% share in the global ship recycling market.

Maritime sector plays a vital role in the overall economic development of a country. Any loopholes in the maritime sector affect our economy and our geopolitical interests especially when we have a hostile neighbor like China with a strong maritime capability.



LINKAGE POINT: The following are the broad challenges associated with the maritime sector of India:



  1. 1.While planned and sustainable seabed exploitation is yet to take off, there is high prevalence of unsustainable extraction from marine resources, such as unsustainable fishing, exploited by illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.
  2. 2.Physical alterations and destruction of marine and coastal habitats and landscapes due largely to coastal development, deforestation, and mining.
  3. 3.Unplanned and unregulated development in the narrow coastal interface and near shore areas has led to the marginalization of poor communities, and loss or degradation of critical habitats.
  4. 4.Marine pollution, for example, in the form of excess nutrients from untreated sewage, agricultural runoff, and marine debris such as plastics.
  5. 5.Impacts of climate change, for example, in the form of both slow-onset events like sea-level rise and more intense and frequent weather events.
  6. 6.Other Factors: Ineffective governance institutions, inadequate economic incentives, technological advances, lack of or inadequate capacities, lack of full implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other legal instruments, and insufficient application of management tools have often led to poorly regulated activities.
  7. 7.Major ports of the country are overloaded and inefficient although efforts under Sagarmala have been made to redevelop many of them.
  8. 8.Dying shipbuilding industry: India’s contribution to commercial shipbuilding globally is less than 1% today, which is far lower than the 3.5% achieved in 2007-12. Only 20 of the country’s 25 shipyards — big and small, private or state-owned — are functional.
  9. 9.Inadequate merchant fleet: India’s imports of crude oil, LPG, food, coal and fertilizer supplies, which constitute the country’s commercial security, are all carried on foreign-owned shipping vessels for an estimated freight bill of $52 billion in value annually.
  10. 10.The exclusive focus of successive governments on port development has led to gross neglect of other critical components of India’s maritime capability. These include merchant shipping, shipbuilding, ship repair, seabed exploration and fisheries etc.  all of which have implications for India’s maritime security as well as its “blue economy”.



Above all, maritime policy of India lacks a long-term vision to counter China’s expansionist designs in the Indo-Pacific. There have been a lot of issues with previous maritime policies, resulting in a huge gap between India & China’s current maritime capabilities.

The recent development to tackle the above challenges in the long run is the Maritime India Vision 2030. It emphasizes on further boosting performance and productivity of our maritime sector to pave the way for an even better future. To strengthen our position of eminence in the global maritime sector, MIV 2030 identifies over 150 initiatives across various maritime sub-sectors like ports, shipping and waterways. The initiatives will add impetus to our integrated efforts towards generating seamless prospects for business and entrepreneurship and create employment opportunities on a large scale.

However, India needs a National Strategy for the maritime sector for the next 50 years. A strong backing of maritime sector is required not just for the economic but from the geopolitical point of view as well which falls in line with India’s aim to emerge one of the  strongest maritime power in Indo-Pacific.