Washington: A senior Obama administration official will lead the first ever US ports and maritime technology trade industry mission to India next month as New Delhi embarks on an ambitious plan to modernise its maritime security.

Led by Francisco Sanchez, US under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, the trade mission consisting of top American executives would make stops in Chennai, Mumbai and Ahmedabad during their trip from February 20 to 24.

The mission would comprise of representatives from 14 US firms that provide state-of-the art cargo handling equipment, port security and maritime technology equipment.

"As one of the world's fastest-growing economies with more than 4,600 miles of coastline, maritime transport is essential to India's external trade," Sanchez said. "This critical market presents lucrative opportunities for US companies that offer products and services in the maritime transport sector".

In 2011, India announced a new shipping sector policy that entails an investment of USD 66 billion in the port sector and USD 27 billion for the shipping sector. There are currently 200 ports across India; this new policy proposes to increase India's port capacity from 1 billion tonnes to 3.2 billion tonnes by 2020.

Some of the US companies selected for participation in the trade mission are AECOM from New York, The Beckett Group from Gig Harbor, Washington State, Capacity from Longview, Texas; ContainerTrac, Inc. from Richmond, California; DSC Dredge from Reserve, Louisiana; NTELX from Vienna, Virginia.

In a statement, the US Department of Commerce said this trade mission advances President Barack Osama’s National Export Initiative (NEI), which aims to double US exports by the end of 2014, supporting economic and job growth.

It also supports the International Trade Administration's (ITA) Growth in Emerging Metropolitan Sectors initiative. It will help US companies already doing business in India increase their current level of exports and deepen their business interests, it said.

Participating firms will gain market insights, make industry contacts, solidify business strategies, and advance specific projects with the goal of increasing US exports to India.

The mission will include one-on-one business appointments with pre-screened potential buyers, agents, distributors, and joint venture partners; meetings with regional government officials; and networking events.

This mission is the first in a series of events planned for 2012 designed to expand US export opportunities within India's infrastructure sectors. Commerce Secretary John Bryson will lead a high-level trade mission to Delhi, Jaipur and Mumbai from March 25 to 30. It will be Bryson's first mission as the commerce secretary.