Maritime transportation has been central to international trade since the earliest days of mankind. The UNCTAD’s ‘2017 Review Report’ confirms that global merchandise trade conducted via the medium of the seas has been on the rise since 1975. Today, over 80% of global trade by volume and 70% by value is conducted within the maritime domain. In the Indian context, 95% of trade by volume and 77% by value flows upon the sea. Maritime transport provides unparalleled cost effectiveness, which is why it is the option-of-choice for the transportation for bulk commodities such as oil, coal, etc. Given the improbability of any other mode of transportation supplanting maritime transport in the foreseeable future, seaborne-trade is likely to continue as the preferred mode of transportation, especially when a large volume of goods and/or oversized cargo is required to be moved over large distances.
Human Activities in the Maritime Domain. A research report by the American Geophysical Union, published in the reputed news magazine “Science”, noted that maritime traffic has increased four-fold over the past 20 years. Using satellite data to estimate the number of vessels transiting the oceans annually, it states that between the years 1992 and 2012, the number of ships traversing the oceans has grown by 60%. Of particular interest is the study’s assertion that during the same period, ship-traffic in the Indian Ocean grew by more than 300%. Interestingly, this is also the period when piracy increased in the region (initially off the Strait of Malacca, and subsequently, off the coast of Somalia). Despite the immense spurt in piracy, the growth of maritime traffic continued unabated. The need for effective maritime traffic-management is, therefore, stronger than ever before.
Sustainable Development Imperatives. The ‘Addis Ababa Action Agenda’ and the ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, both stress on the need for developing the maritime sector, inherent in which is a need to focus on maritime transportation. The Blue Economy, too, is ocean-centric and within it, the maritime sector, including maritime transportation, will constitute a major focus area.
Regional Development of Littorals. Like India, several nations of East and Southeast Asia, too, are in the process of executing ambitious plans for accelerated economic development, all of which have significant maritime implications. As a result, the volume of maritime traffic to be found within the India-ASEAN sub-region is already very dense. For instance, the Straits of Malacca-and-Singapore alone account for some 90,000 ship-transits every year. As national plans for enhanced maritime connectivity get executed, this density of shipping will, in the years ahead, rise very significantly. Clearly, therefore, far greater cooperation than presently obtains in the India-ASEAN maritime expanse will be an essential prerequisite to ensure that sustainable development and environmental sensitivity guides maritime trade and other forms of maritime connectivity throughout the region.
Since human beings remain at the core of maritime connectivity — whether by way of merchandise trade, servicing the shipping industry, travel, cruise-liner tourism, collaborative fishing, or ocean-based scientific and commercial endeavours, and since the oceans and seas — especially those comprising the Indo-Pacific remain inherently peril-prone spaces, the assurance of maritime safety is a ubiquitous and compelling need.
Maritime Environmental Safety: Though the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes achievement of environmental sustainability, but as long as the maritime trade uses fossil fuel, this mode of transportation shall remain highly susceptible to marine oil spill disaster.
Sustainable Fisheries: The Region’s population being on the rise, the requirement of Sustainable fisheries management requires a careful study so as to attain an optimal state that balances ecological, economic, social and cultural objectives for the regional fisheries industries.
Maritime Port Safety: The increase in maritime trade has necessitated the ports all over to expand for providing necessary infrastructure for the vessels calling these ports. However, the large expanse of these ports warrants equal amount of mechanism to be put in place for safety viz. SPM safety, safety for the vessels at anchorage etc. The session will examine the port expansion vis-a-vis the requirement of safety & security both on shore and the off shore.
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