NO: DELENG / 2017 / 70663
official media partner of national maritime foundation
Cmde. Sujeet Samaddar NM (Retd.) Hony Secy, Society for Aerospace Maritime and Defence Studies.
By Sea and Coast | 04/12/2020

Blueprint for India’s Blue Economy: The Future we Need.

1. Oceans are the new economic frontier. Accessing the potentially renewable immense resources of food, energy, mineral and water has become increasingly technologically feasible and commercially viable. It is, therefore, easy to understand why businesses and governments tend to overexploit these valuable resources for short term political and economic gains at some significant environmental and social costs.

2. With the increasingly evident global impact of climate change higher Incidence microplastics and pollutants entering the capture fisheries and salt food chain, reduced biodiversity endangering species and marine life, conflict at sea and contest for sea borne access to resources, markets and commodities a changed vision of the oceans is gaining salience in world affairs. Oceans, it is now realised, are the final frontier for stabilising the earth’s climate by absorbing heat and carbon and thus ensuring the sustainable future of all mankind. This frontier must not be breached. This vision is captured in the concept of the Blue Economy and it is therefore vital to place it in the mainstream national discourse on maritime affairs.

3. Though conceptual clarity on the definition of the Blue Economy and its accounting framework has still to be universally agreed, its fundamental preoccupation is to restore ocean health whilst creating new sources of economically sustainable business opportunities to a much wider population of job seekers and entrepreneurs. This balanced approach would decouple environmental degradation of oceans and coastal areas from socio-economic development.

4. It is well understood that no one nation can sustainably harness the sustainable potential of the ocean as these global commons are a shared resource. Therefore, regional cooperation is a necessity for a stable, safe, secure and sustainable ocean ecosystem.

5. Several countries and international intergovernmental organizations have vigorously promoted the adoption of the Blue Economy model in their domestic planning and policy making process and in their foreign policy agenda.

6. China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA) monitors progress of various marine sectors under its Five-Year Development Plan for National Marine Economy. Bangladesh proposed the “Bay of Bengal Partnership for Blue Economy” for an “inclusive and people centric,” sustainable development of sea-based resources. The Nordic Countries, Australia, African Union and East Asian countries are pursuing options and policies to mainstream Blue Economy concepts in their national discourse.

7. In 2012, the European Union announced its “Blue Growth” strategy for sustainable development of marine and maritime sectors. The APEC, in their Xianen declaration of 2014, ‘agreed to focus collaborative actions on four priority areas: coastal and marine ecosystem conservation and disaster resilience; the role of oceans on food security and food-related trade; marine science, technology and innovation; and the Blue Economy’. The 10 th BRICS summit of 2018, of which South Africa is the Chair, linked Operation Phakisa with the Blue Economy and the Summit leaders noted the ‘vast potential in cooperation and collaboration in advancing the Oceans Economy amongst BRICS countries.’

8. PROBLUE, launched in September 2018 is a new Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF), ‘which takes a multi-pronged, coordinated approach to ensuring the protection and sustainable use of marine and coastal resources’ and is a part of the World Bank’s overall Blue Economy program.

9. In the regional context the Blue Economy Declaration was adopted at the first IORA Ministerial Blue Economy Conference, held in Mauritius in 2015 and the IORA further endorsed its commitment to the Blue Economy in the Jakarta Declaration in 2017. This included an Action Plan to achieve the objectives of the Blue Economy over a five year period.

10. India has been championing the Blue Economy Model. India’s call for seeking “Security And Growth for All in the Region” (SAGAR) and conceptualising a National Council for Maritime Affairs to coordinate, integrate and harmonise activities for sustainable development of the marine and maritime sector are recent initiatives in this regard. It also launched Project MAUSAM to re-establish and invigorate age old cultural and historical ties with its neighbourhood. From an industry perspective, India’s Port Led Mega Sustainable Development SAGARMALA Project is a testimony of India’s commitment to the Blue Economy. Other initiatives include, but are not limited to, creation of Coastal Employment Zone, implementing Island Development programs, development of 111 National Waterways and promotion of coastal tourism.

11. Blue Economy extends to nearly every facet of the national economy including extractive industries, manufacturing, agriculture, construction, and services sectors. Blue Economy, therefore, has a huge untapped potential and it’s a critical pillar of the India growth story. This could go a long way in diversifying local economies by generating additional output accruing from sustainable utilization of marine resources and expanded occupational choices created with local knowledge and technology.

12. For the Blue Economy Model to develop to its fullest potential, recourse to sustainable utilisation of natural resources, emphasis on renewable energy sources, minimum invasive impact on the coastal and marine ecosystem and above all socially inclusive and gender neutral development of the people is necessary. Towards this end, the region as a whole, and especially India — as an important and responsible leading power of the region must provide primacy to maritime intensive economic development. As such, it must initiate and promote regionally relevant maritime connectivity models that are needed to underpin mutuallybeneficial economic structures.

13. The common thread that binds these sectors of the Blue Socio-Econo-Enviro development model is the necessity to access or develop appropriate technologies. Some nations have developed it and others are developing it - but all of humanity needs it to make our Earth sustainable for future generations of mankind. India should strive to design and implement a responsible and replicable model of a Blue Economy that is not the product of geo-economic strategies but ones that are grounded on an inclusive and collaborative approach. Such a model should become a regional agenda of cooperation and collaboration amongst at least the Indo-Pacific countries on a range of human interest issues related to the entire gamut of maritime activities.

14. Fishery accounts for a significant fraction of Blue Economy output in many coastal nations of the world. The dependence on marine fishery for food and livelihood is growing rapidly and so trade in fish products has also increased. India is the second largest producer of fish but only 30% of its output comes from marine fisheries. So, there is a lot of headspace for the marine fishing industry to grow in India including value added products such as nutrients like Omega-3 and processed seaweed. To deliver better returns from this industry, deep sea fishing vessels with on board processing facilities, harmonization of food safety standards and effective legal and governance mechanisms are required. From an industry perspective this sector requires India to cooperate with technology leaders to build state of the art deep sea fishing vessels and processing capabilities. This would prevent wasteful fishing and protect endangered species. Simultaneously nations must ensure that the national fisheries industry develops in compliance with the SDG 14.4 goal that requires marine f i s h i n g s t o c k s t o b e b r o u g h t b a c k t o replenishable levels by 2020. This means that Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities be completely brought under check in this period. By some estimates, the IUU fishing trade, that was caught in the western Indian ocean alone is of the order of USD 2.4 billion and many times that number were possibly not intercepted. It also requires the Indo-Pacific countries to collaborate and install an effective space, surface and sub-seabased surveillance and monitoring system supported by a coalition marine constabulary. Unless this collaborative architecture is jointly put in place fishing stocks will continue to recede and food security challenges will arise destabilising social fabric of coastal states in times to come. Hence, an urgency to institutionalise this arrangement is regional requirement.

15. Marine minerals, particularly placers are sources of important heavy metals like titanium, tin, rutile, ilmenite and monazite. Placer minerals have industrial utility in aerospace and defence, bio-medicine, consumer electronics and telecommunications, petroleum, paint, refractory sector etc. India is fortunate to have rich deposits of placer in its EEZ. India also has rights to deep seabed mining covering an area of 75,000 sq km. Put together, these are rich resources but their extraction places substantial technical challenges and environmental penalties. Though such extraction is best avoided but it does seem imminent given the massive deficit in exotic materials that emerging economies are facing. It behoves upon the comity of Indo- Pacific Nation states to devise suitable monitoring and surveillance architectures to ensure environmental discipline in the sustainable extraction of these minerals. Simultaneously, concepts of resource circularity and material recovery policies to best utilise already extracted minerals must also be encouraged.

16. Marine manufacturing covers several sectors including marine engineering and instrumentation, ship making, ship repairing and ship recycling, boat making, dock machinery, various material handling systems, port management systems etc. Industry 4.0 and the range of disruptive technologies looming on the horizon is set to transform this sector. Shipbuilding and shipping have a direct relationship with nation building. History informs us that every great power possessed a vibrant shipbuilding industry and operated best in class ships that helped maintain continued and unimpeded access to resources, commodities and markets which are the vital pillars of a nation’s economy. For India, shipbuilding must become an urgent national strategic priority. India is set to import about 50 billion cubic meters of LNG, export 4 million vehicles, clock up more than a trillion dollars of exports in the early years of the coming decade. However, India does not design and build LNG ships, Very/Ultra Large Crude or Product carriers, Car Carriers or Container ships and is dependent on foreign companies for transporting of its EXIM trade With India’s share of only 0.15% of global shipbuilding and owning only about 1% of the World Mercantile Fleet the annual outgo on EXIM trade alone is greater than US$52 billion paid to foreign shipping companies. Only 6.4% of the national cargo is freighted through coastal shipping which is again carried mostly on foreign hulls. This is a huge strategic weakness and exposes the nation’s access to commodities, resources and markets to geopolitical forces. This should no longer be acceptable. India requires to revisit its shipbuilding industry and align it with Industry 4.0 concepts. For this a strategically driven long-term shipbuilding plan for India which maybe spread over the next 30-40 years, that would synergise the capabilities and skills existing in warship building to build India’s mercantile marine is an urgent necessity.

17. As an adjunct, given the reliance upon computer-driven and internet-based computational devices and computational processes all of which are intrinsic to an Industry 4.0 environment, there is a concomitant need for cyber security as a major mitigation approach to the vulnerabilities of Industry 4.0 based digitization in the sensitive sectors of ICT based Blue Economy enterprises.

18. In the marine biotechnology sector several of our friendly countries have achieved remarkable progress in development and commercialization of drug molecules, nutraceuticals and functional foods. There is growing interest in India of marine organisms and plants such as microalgae, sponges, fungi and bacteria and seaweed. India has developed some expertise in developing various types of drugs that have applications for addressing various debilitating disease such as cancer etc. Quite a bit of this industry is built around young entrepreneurs in the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). There is an opportunity to explore industrial collaborative ventures, combining technology with human and material resources for a win- win situation for government, entrepreneurs and citizens.

19. The commercial exploitation of renewable offshore ocean energy sources is expected to bring transformation in the global energy scenario. As per estimates, the world can develop 337 GW of ocean energy and create 300,000 direct jobs by 2050. India has set a target of about 170 GW of energy from the renewable sector. Unlike other sources of renewable energy, ocean energy technologies are not yet fully tested for commercialization though several pilot plants, particularly for Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), are in operation. Tidal and wave energy concepts are under development in India but some countries have developed commercially viable technologies. Electric propulsion and alternative fuels are being encouraged which also has maritime applications not only on board ships but also in port and harbour transportation requirements. This would require substantial R&D efforts, innovation and industrial support to fully develop the potential of ocean based energy such as tidal, wave, thermoelectric, offshore wind and solar farms.

20. Marine services include diverse subsectors such as port & shipping, coastal and island tourism, marine ICT services, marine banking & insurance, maritime commerce and so on. All of these sub-sectors possess enormous potential for innovation, growth and occupational diversification. Globally, coastal tourism and Marine ICT are emerging as important segments of the Blue Economy. Particularly in the port services and third party logistic services use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Block Chain technologies are gaining salience. In the near future the Internet of Things will further transform the delivery of marine services. Here again, it could be useful to explore how nations may collaborate for the earths mutually assured sustainable future.

21. Maritime connectivity and infrastructure is another sector of the Blue Economy. Mega Transhipment hubs, LNG bunkering and terminals, laying of subsea internet cables and oil pipelines, search and rescue, salvage, capital dredging businesses are expanding rapidly. Amongst participating nations twinning of ports, standardised methodologies for facilitating multi modal transportation are creating a new breed of entrepreneurs and innovators. India is set to develop new ports and increase the navigable depth in existing ports. For this, sophisticated dredgers are required which are not yet built in India. There is an opportunity to develop this industry as dredgers will also be required to maintain navigable depth in the Inland waterways.

22. Finally, maritime diplomacy and its attendant requirements of an enabling security architecture is in the common interest of the nations of the Indo-Pacific. Hence the common and collective call to collaboratively institute a rulebased order at sea that ensures freedom of navigation and overflight and assured equal access to resources, commodities and markets. This is fundamental to the success of the Blue Economy.

23. Maritime security and the Blue Economy evolve and develop in an interdependent manner. Neither can be successful without the other. Maritime security is an enabler of the Blue Economy, for example, through securing freedom of navigation and overflight, providing safe navigation and safety of the merchant marine fleet, weather and oceanographic information to industries and protecting assets and resources within the jurisdictional zones of maritime arena. As the Blue Economy evolves there occurs a natural requirement for greater demand for maritime security which trigger investment and growth in the induction of appropriate capabilities. The enhanced and increasingly diverse role that maritime security will continue to play in the Blue Economy can be seen across all sectors in the IOR. A combination of shared space, surface and sea bed surveillance systems and supported by high speed rapid response platforms such as Interceptor crafts, Hovercrafts and seaplanes is required to ensure that the oceans are not degraded by miscreants and criminals. Such a security architecture to preserve, protect and promote the sustainable use of the ocean spaces and support the precepts and principles of the Blue Economy Model of socio-economic development requires apex level collaboration, contribution and cooperation from all stakeholders. The magnitude of ‘dark vessel’ activities is estimated to be about USD 3-5 billion.

24. Therefore, there is a strong business case for a potential investment into an equatorial orbit satellite system, Long Range Identification and Tracking systems and widespread application of Automated Identification Systems for Dark Vessel tracking and recognition supported with Big DATA and artificial intelligence. At the state level White Shipping Agreements and generation of data fused common operational pictures shared amongst the relevant security and intelligence agencies would require the combined resources and strengths of nations working together for a common sustainable, safe, secure and stable future. A workable plan should be a point of discussion in forums such as the ministerial meetings of the IORA, G-20 Summit Meetings, ASEAN+2 dialogues, BRICS summits, APEC, EAC etc. to debate and discuss how this objective may be realised at least at a regional/sub-regional level.

25. The various facets of the Blue Economy possesses enormous potential for innovation, revenue generation, job creation and occupational diversification but requires the integrated and coordinated efforts of several agencies for success. Due to the size and diversity of the maritime sector, specialised skills need to be developed so that maritime jobs do not flow to third countries.

26. However, the oceans are a source of concern as non-state and state actors use the oceans in manners that impinge upon the safety of citizens, crew and cargo; the security of Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs); challenges the sovereign rights of nations for freedom of navigation and over flight; and, cause turbulence in maritime affairs that test political stability in the region. It is, therefore, vital that India balances these diverse issues to derive the maximum benefit from the maritime domain.

27. At the very basic level the first task is to prepare the marine spatial planning of India’s marine territories. Ocean spaces are subject to a growing variety and volume of diverse activities whose velocity and intensity are accelerating climate change due unregulated ocean use amongst an increasing tribe of ocean users. This in turn is leading to jurisdictional conflicts and sub-optimal management of ocean spaces. Marine spatial planning (MSP) has emerged as a powerful instrument for managing ocean uses and resolving conflicts among marine users. India, needs to commission a national program on marine spatial planning for more effective use of its ocean spaces.

28. With the new tools of disruptive technologies and the adoption of Industry 4.0 processes combined with the realisation that various illegal activities of piracy and terrorism, trafficking in drugs, arms and people, marine pollution, dumping of toxic wastes and overfishing are real and growing threats to humankind.

29. In conclusion, though India is the 16 th largest maritime country it does not yet have a comprehensive national maritime policy. For India, a continued business as usual approach to maritime affairs will be catastrophic. India needs a Apex National Maritime Council supported by a Central Maritime Commission to conceptualise and realise the full potential of the Blue Economy model of safe, sustainable, secure, stable and inclusive maritime development of the nation.30. India needs to enact a Promotion of Blue Economy Act, as has been done by many maritime nations. This would put in place the enabling legislation to empower the government and its agencies to integrate, coordinate and harmonise systems, programs, projects, plan and initiatives of several ministries departments and agencies to achieve efficient economic and effective outcomes. For this appropriate maritime governance and administrative structures cognizant of technological developments and need for sustainability are required.

31. There is no better than time now than now to collectively sit together and chart the way forward for the sustainable maritime future we need.