New Delhi: The government on Thursday proposed setting up of two ports in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, a move that would add cargo handling capacity in the country.

"Two new major ports will be established in Sagar, West Bengal and in Andhra Pradesh to add 100 million tonnes of capacity," Finance Minister P Chidambaram said while announcing the Budget proposals for 2013-14.

In addition, a new outer harbour will be developed in the VOC port (V O Chidambaram Port Trust, formerly Tuticorin Port Port Trust) at Thoothukkudi, Tamil Nadu through PPP at an estimated cost Rs 7,500 crore. When completed, this will add 42 million tonnes of capacity, he said.

At present there are 12 major ports in India -- Mumbai, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), Kolkata (with Haldia), Chennai, Cochin, Paradip, New Mangalore, Marmagao, Ennore, Tuticorin, Kandla and Visakhapatanam. The location of the Andhra Pradesh port is yet to be finalised.

The Finance Minister also proposed exemption of excise duty for ships and vessels. "A measure of relief to the shipbuilding industry, I propose to exempt ships and vessels from excise duty. Consequently, there will be no CVD (counterveiling duty) on imported ships and vessels," he said in his Budget speech. CVD is a duty imposed to offset subsidies by foreign governments.

Ministry of Shipping, in the Maritime Agenda 2010-20, unveiled in January 2011, had proposed setting up of two major ports -- which handle heavy cargo traffic -- in the country. Ministry of Shipping has estimated investments of approximately Rs 2.87 lakh crore in major and non-major ports and Rs 1.65 lakh crore in the shipping sector by 2020.

The Ministry aims at creating Port capacity of 3200 million tonnes for handling about 2500 million tonnes of cargo by 2020. It also envisages establishing a Port Regulator for all ports for setting, monitoring and regulating service levels and technical and performance standards.

Cargo traffic at ports during the six-month period ended September 2012 grew by just 1.8 per cent to 455.8 million tonnes due to decline in shipments handled at major ports. Cargo traffic or the goods transported for commercial gain increased to 455.8 million tonnes (April-September, 2012) from 448 million tonnes (April-September, 2011). There was a decline of 3.3 percent in the cargo handled at major ports.

In contrast, non-major ports' growth increased to 185.206 million tonnes or 10.3 percent in the first half of 2012-13 compared to 168 or 8.2 percent in the corresponding period of 2011-12.

(Agencies)

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