NO: DELENG / 2017 / 70663
official media partner of national maritime foundation
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW of Dr.Malini V. Shankar, (IAS,)
By Amit Kumar | 01/06/2020
In Conversation with Dr. Malini V Shankar, Chairman, National Shipping Board

“The government is trying its best to balance the need to protect lives and the need to protect livelihood. It has taken steps to revive industries and recommence manufacturing activities,” stated Dr. Malini V Shankar, the newly appointed Chairman of the National Shipping Board, India in an exclusive interview with Sea and Coast Magazine.

Scientist turned administrator, cum enable ?? Dr. Malini V Shakar (IAS), was recently assumed the position of Chairman after holding the office of Director of the Directorate General Shipping, Union Ministry of Shipping, Govt. of India. During her successful tenure, she made significant changes in the shipping sector that not only positively affected Indian waters but had a ripple effect across the globe.

Sea and Coast Magazine set out to learn from the veteran policy-maker about what’s on her agenda as the new Chairman of the National Shipping Board. The following are excerpts from the exclusive interview…

On The Agenda

Any change of roles, even in the purview of shipping, comes with its own set of challenges; no two roles are the same. When asked about the unique natures of her the high ranks she held asin both the DG Shipping and now as Chairperson of National Shipping Board, Dr. Malini V Shankar replied succinctly, “The DG Shipping is an attached office of the Ministry of Shipping. It is a field agency of sorts, and has full powers to frame policies and enforce them. The National Shipping Board, while finding place in the national laws, is an advisory body that complements the DG Shipping and the Ministry.”Speaking about the areas that will have Dr. Shankar’s attention on priority basis, she said, “The Hon. Minister has highlighted the areas of work to be taken on priority, and that is where we will be starting.” She explained, “Primarily, this includes shipping policy, the National Shipping Bill 2016, multi-modal transport, promotion of coastal shipping, promotion of ship building activities, and enhancing employment of seafarers and their welfare.”

Building the Business of Building

“Do you know that India was the premier ship building region during the days of the British colonisation and Wadias were recognised for the quality and efficacy of ship building?” asked the now present Chairperson man of the NSB to bring to light India’s rich history of ship-building. She then shed some light on why India’s has not been able to tap into its full potential in this domain, “There are several contributory factors, both global and internal. The private sector needs to have what the famous cricketer Kapil Dev would call ‘fire in the belly’, and this has to be matched with some ameliorations in the cost of finance and easing of procedures.”

Upping the Ante

“Digitalisation is already progressing, and in good speed across sectors, including shipping. Artificial Intelligence and Block Chain Technology are becoming more popular,” affirmed the new Chairman. Speaking about another novel trend that is being deeply looked at as the new wave in shipping technology–automation, Dr. S h a n k a r s a i d , “ A s f o r a u t o m ation– meaning unmanned ships– this is not something which is likely to happen overnight, and the majority of ships will remain manned. Our manpower needs to be trained for the emerging technologies so that Indians are not left behind in this race for automation.”

India is often touted as the hub for crew management systems. To maintain that and to work towards even better facilitation of crew, Dr. Shankar believes that an idea she came across to develop a generic mechanism/app for ships and ports needs serious consideration. The aforementioned tool aims to facilitate efficient ship-port interface, which could cover customs, immigration, port health along with vessel tracking, booking of berths, crew change, and more.

Another feather in the hat of the Indian shipping industry is its resolve towards sustainability. Whether it is related to emission control or waste treatment, India is putting is leaving no stone unturned. Dr. Shankar lauded the industry saying, “The Indian shipping industry strives to be compliant with international norms and regulations at all times.” She then stated that each stakeholder has to earnestly believe in the concept of sustainability at all levels. “For instance, I think there is much room for improvement in waste treatment both at ships and in ports, and this can be achieved with the understanding of its importance on the part of each of the stakeholders responsible for the management of ships and ports,” she opined.

Coping with COVID

The Corona Virus Disease 2019 or COVID-19 has made the whole world squirm and has brought us all on our knees. The industry has been hit hard with a demand decline, risk of contraction and fear brewing within the community, it is important to address the burning questions on how the industry will sustain this crisis.

When asked about India’s delay in responding to seafarers stranded due to the pandemic, Dr. Shankar answered, “I do not think India has been a laggard in responding.” She expounded, “India is a vast, complex country with a huge population and intense population density. As such, the government had to address very pressing issues to prevent spread of the virus within the population—restriction of movement, health protocols for testing and tracking, identification of containment zones, and most importantly, the issue of migrant labour”.

The gears of the economy have now been non-operational across the globe for an cunprecedented period of 2 months now. With there being a lot of angst in the industry about lay-offs and salary cuts, Sea and Coast magazine enquired about the government’s plan to bring confidence back into the economy. To which the policy-maker said, “The government is trying its best to balance the need to protect lives and the need to protect livelihood. It has taken steps to revive industries and re-commence manufacturing activities. For shipping to take off, there has to be goods and production; this in turn requires factories to restart. With a considerable proportion of the labour force being migrant in nature, they have headed back to their hometowns. It will take some time for the supply chain to be restored.”

“Change is the only constant in the world. As they say, there will be a ‘new’ normal. For the better part of the next 1-2 years, social contacts and travel will be rationalised. As far as shipping is concerned, it is likely to be affected by the reduction in demand and in trading activities. It will require accelerated adoption of fresh technology, and reorganisation of both operations and business development,” quoted Dr. Malini V Shankar, Chairman, NBS. Dr. Shankar’s final message to those in the blue economy was, “Don’t panic, take precautions, stay safe and eat healthy. And give a deep thought to Mother Earth and the environment.” There is a lot of uncertainty that lies ahead. The post-COVID world is ‘the new unknown’ but the shipping fraternity has been privy to the unknown more than any other man on the planet.