NO: DELENG / 2017 / 70663
official media partner of national maritime foundation
By SEA AND COAST | 02/05/2017



Chairman, National Maritime Foundation

Former Chief of the Naval Staff


Our blue planet, the Earth has a dominance of the maritime domain with over 70% of the Earth's surface covered by water, nearly 80% of the world population living within 200 nautical miles from the coast and about 90% of the world's trade which transits by sea.

 The Oceans are rich in oil and minerals resources, they are suppliers of oxygen, absorbers of carbon dioxide, a virtual heat sink, rich in bio-diversity, and have emerged as the global economic highways for transit of trade. The seas and the oceans are therefore gaining new found importance as each day goes by and there is no doubt that the current century is the “century of the seas”. With depletion of resources on land, humankind has turned towards the oceans and there is a misperception that oceans have an unending resource base and are an infinite sink. Nothing could be further away from reality.

Consequently we are witnessing pollutions of the oceans and contamination of the natural marine habitat with adverse impact of climate change on oceans. Studies have indicated that 80% of the pollutants in the seas emanate from land and if the current rate of pollution continues, in a few decades we will have more plastic in the oceans than fish. Harnessing the ocean based Blue Economy therefore calls for efficient utilisation of marine resources without substantial environmental impact and ensuring a sustained development of the oceans.

India is essentially a maritime nation with a natural out flow towards the seas, we have a long coastline of over 7500 km, an exclusive Economic Zone of over 2.0 million square kilometres, over 1300 islands and islets as a part of the Andaman and Nicobar group in the Bay of Bengal, Lakshadweep islands in the Arabian sea and along the west and east coast of India.

We have 12 major ports and nearly 200 minor and intermediate ports, 90% of our trade by volume and 77% by value transits by sea, we have a vibrant shipbuilding industry and a thriving fishing industry. We have offshore oil and gas interests both off the West and East Coast of India and deep sea bed mining area in the Central Indian Ocean.

It is evident therefore that we have vast maritime interests which have a vital relationship with the nation's economic growth and are enablers of the “Blue Economy”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has outlined his maritime vision for the Indian Ocean through SAGAR which stands for 'Security and Growth for All' in the region. The 'Sagarmala' project has also been launched as a port led development initiative for port modernisation, connectivity of major and minor ports with the hinterland, augmen-tation of coastal shipping and inland waterways.

There is also a focus on maritime tourism and development of island infrastructure. In recent years, therefore, there has been a renewed thrust towards harness-ing the blue economy and India has once again turned towards the seas in her quest to emerge as a resurgent maritime nation. In the last 10 years, the Indian Ocean Region has emerged as the world's centre of the gravity in the maritime domain. It is the 3rd largest water body covering an area of 68.7 million sq km and the countries on the ocean rim are home to one third of world's humanity.

The ocean is rich in oil and mineral resources and 66% of the world's oil, 50% of world's container traffic and 33% of world's cargo traffic transits over the waters of the ocean.

Another distinguishing feature of the Indian Ocean is that 80% of the oil and trade which emanates in the region is extra regional in nature. This implies that if there is any impediment in the free flow of oil or trade, it would have a detrimental impact not just on economies of the region but global economies as well.

It is therefore the collective responsibility of the navies and coast guards of maritime nations to ensure that we keep the global commons unpolluted, safe and secure.

Networking among navies and global maritime partnerships between maritime nations are therefore emerging as the new order of the 21st century. A White Paper on 'Blue Economy' has been prepared by the faculty of the National Maritime Foundation which contains relevant policy suggestions for India.

The National Maritime Foundation is planning to host an International Conference on 'Maritime Skill Development' in partnership with the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneur-ship in the coming months to promote the implemen-tation of the Blue Economy.

(Admiral RK Dhowan is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy, the Defence Services Staff College and the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, USA.

The Admiral assumed charge as the Vice Chief of the Naval Staff in Aug 11 and was promoted as the 22nd Chief of the Naval Staff of the Indian Navy on 17 Apr 14. He retired on 31 May 2016.

On 25 Nov 16, he took over as the fifth Chairman of the National Maritime Foundation (NMF), New Delhi, which is India's premier maritime think tank.)