India has got 14,500 km of navigable waterways, which comprise of rivers, canals, backwaters, creeks, etc. Presently, about 37,00 km of major rivers is navigable by mechanized crafts but actually only 2000 km is being used. 160 tonnes of cargo is transported through Inland Water Transport.There are 12 major ports in the country apart from 139 minor working ports along the coastline of about 5,600 km. Major ports are the direct responsibility of the Central Government while the minor/intermediate are under the management of the state governments.Kandla, Mumbai, Mormugao, New Manglore, Cochin and Jawaharlal Nehru Port are the major ports of the west coast. The Jawaharlal Nehru Port is equipped with modern facilities having mechanized container berths for handling dry bulk cargo and service berth, etc.
The Andhra Pradesh coast between Ongole and Machilipatnam is most vulnerable to high surges due to cyclones. Andhra Cyclone of 14-20
November, 1977 that crossed the coast near Nizampatnam took a toll of about 10,000 lives. As the storm approached the coast, gale winds
reaching 200 km/h lashed Prakasam, Guntur, Krishna, East Godavari and West Godavari districts. Storm surge, 5 meters high, inundated
Krishna estuary and the coast south of Machilipatnam. The 2004 Tsunami affected many fishing villages around Machilipatnam. The Government
and the NGOs are involved in rebuilding and reconstruction of the devastated villages.
Machilipatnam is well known for its Kalamkari painting. The art flourished during the reign of Qutub Shahis. Weavers form a large portion of the inhabitants, though their trade has greatly declined since the beginning of the 19th century. Their operations, besides weaving, include printing, bleaching, washing and dressing. In former days the chintzes of Masulipatam had a great reputation abroad for the freshness and permanency of their dyes.The port is only a roadstead, where vessels anchor 5 m. out. A branch line from Vijayawada on the Southern Mahratta railway was opened in 1908. The port of Machilipatnam today is in desperate need for modernization. It has not seen any ships in the last decade. In its heyday, the port used to handle export of different items weighing more than 2.7 lakh tonnes and imports of 37,000 tonnes. Much needs to be done to bring the city back to its glory. In January 2006, Government of Andhra Pradesh revealed plans.
To keep peace with its GDP growth rate in the next few years, India needs to expedite its port capacity expansion plans. As the global and Indian trade grows at a pace of 12 per cent per annum, congestion at major ports withal depress port performance, unless sufficient port capacity is created. Currently, Indian ports have a capacity of 750 million TPA. In comparison, China has an installed capacity of 5.6 billion TPA. Indian ports are working at much higher capacity utilization as against world standards, wherein capacity is generally pegged at 120 per cent of estimated port traffic to ensure smooth functioning of the port. Currently, most of the ships carrying cargo from East to West break their bulk at Colombo, Hong Kong, or Singapore (this is trans-shipment port - shipment of goods to an intermediate destination before reaching its final port). At present, 80 per cent of the Indian containers are trans-shipped at Colombo, Singapore, and Dubai.
Indian ports handle large quantities of commodities such as crude, iron ore, steel products, fertilizers, food grains and cement. Apart from these electronics, textile, stationery, auto ancillaries, leather and jute products are also transported via ports.
Under the National Maritime Development Program (NMDP), the major thrust is on private sector participation. Hence 66 percent of the total investment outlay is expected to the contributed from the private sector O this, NMDP has expected a total capital expenditure requirement of RS 55,800 crore to expand the existing port capacities. Private players are expected to pump in Rs 34,500 crore, either as operators of container terminals or by forming joint ventures with port authorities. Further, 360 projects have been outlined for all ports put together, including expansion of ports, improvement in hinterland - inland region lying behind a port - connectivity, and deepening of ports (aimed at improving ports statistics). Opening up of this sector for private participation and inducing favorable policies to promote investments will turn out to be the key so successful implementation of the huge capacity expansion project. About 64 percent of the proposed investment in major ports is expected from private players.
Inefficiencies at the ports affecting the traffic has been a major reason behind not growing at a reasonable rate and lagging behind in the global race. Although container traffic has grown rapidly at the major ports in India, inefficiencies due to infrastructure bottlenecks still persist. Infrastructure bottlenecks have led to higher dwell time, thus hampering container traffic growth. However, the government has undertaken measures to strengthen regulatory structures of major ports. This includes tariff rationalization and establishment in a phased manner and a corporate structure for existing ports. This step will help to arrest al lot of problems at the ports.