India’s National Maritime Day celebrations overshadow SMM India 2013
Had SMM India 2013 been organized as an exclusive entity as was traditionally done at Mumbai’s Bombay Exhibition grounds, it would have resulted in being a very subdued event and may have even gone unnoticed. But this year it played host to India’s 50th National Maritime Day Celebrations and the seminar that took place on 4th and 5th April last week. Thus it turned out to be the regular auspicious event of the National Maritime Day Celebration Organizing Committee (NMDC) which is held under the auspice Indian administration, where members of the maritime fraternity and related trade converge and awards bestowed on outstanding personalities for their meritorious performance.
Addressing the large gathering, Milind Deora, Union Minister of State for Shipping, IT and Communications, who inaugurated the conference and exhibition, foresaw tremendous scope for the maritime sector in India. He stated that India had the making and advantages for becoming a global maritime hub. Through the Maritime Agenda 2020 the ministry expects the country to emerge as a world leader in the maritime sector. Towards this end he mentioned that the government had fully exempted ship acquisition from excise duty and CVD in the recent budget and in addition announced a proposal to develop two new major ports in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
The three-day exhibition coinciding with the conference saw several manufacturers and suppliers not necessarily restricted to the maritime sector but showcasing some interesting products and services that attracted a lot of interest. The first two days saw unexpectedly tremendous footfall as a result of the interest generated by the stimulating and comprehensive conference programs held at the same venue for which registration was free for all delegates attending the event.
The theme of the conference as anticipated was ‘Last 50 years of Indian Shipping-Introspection & Way Ahead’. The highlight was the Public Private Partnership Summit on 5th April, where numerous high-calibre speakers addressed current key issues and projects affecting the Indian maritime industry.
It was on 5th April 1919 when the first Indian ship of the modern era, “S.S. Loyalty” owned by the erstwhile Scindia Steamship Navigation Company set sail from Bombay to London. The date remained a memorable day in India’s maritime history and the year 1964 saw the birth of the celebration of the Maritime Day in India.
The celebrations took shape from the decision of the National Welfare Board for Seafarers, which was a statutory body constituted under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958. The Board at its third meeting held at Madras on 11th January, 1964, under the Chairmanship of the Union Minister of Transport, recommended that 5th April be celebrated as the National Maritime Day every year. The first National Maritime Day was thus celebrated on this date in 1964 and the saga has continued.
In addition to celebrating the sailing of ‘s.s. Loyalty’, the National Maritime Day is designed to create reawakening and a resurgence of the maritime consciousness in our people, and this purpose is being ably served as there is a growing consciousness about the maritime sector amongst the public who otherwise remain oblivious of the industry. National Maritime Day is significant for developing consciousness in the society about the importance of the maritime sector and its contribution to the Indian economy. Similar celebrations are held simultaneously all over India in prime locations.
The “Grand Finale” was held on the 5th April at the Y.B. Chavan Auditorium, in South Mumbai with G.K. Vasan, Union Minister of Shipping gracing the occasion as Chief Guest, P.K. Sinha, Secretary (Shipping) presiding over the function and Rear Admiral (retd) Peter Brady, Director General, Jamaica Maritime Authority attending as the Guest of Honor. The country’s most prestigious Varuna Award was conferred by the NMDC on P. S. Vanchiswar and the award for outstanding contribution to Maritime and Education Training was bestowed on Capt Harry Subramaniam.