The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) held a Boating Conference titled ‘Navigating Forward,’ on 24th February concurrent with the Mumbai International Boat show 2012. Both meaningful and enlightening, this year’s conference brought to fore many unanswered questions related to inconsistent regulations at ports; inadequate licensing, inspection and registration policies and unprofitable customs, excise, subsidies and tax breaks. All of these, combined with bureaucracy and deficient infrastructure have ensured that the industry is crippled and remains backward and a poor cousin to its prosperous other industry, shipping. The lack of infrastructure and the lack of a separate legislation (from shipping) have been the cause of the many struggles that the boating industry in India has been through in the past decade. The question remains – why has India yet to come out of these two long standing discrepancies?
The Interactive Roundtable Session at the conference discussed challenges like excise duties and tax breaks which hamper the manufacturers’ effort to expand. The session’s speakers – Aashim Mongia, Managing Director, West Coast Marine Yacht Services Pvt. Ltd., said that due to the taxation structure the margin between importing a boat and building a boat is very little. Tax breaks are required to facilitate purchase of machinery. Peter Valeth, Managing Director, Valeth High Tech Composites Pvt. Ltd., pointed out that sufficient space needs to be allocated by the government for berthing as well as construction. Boatyards and docking facilities face severe environmental and location problems. Rajesh Desai, Chief Executive Officer, Mahindra Ocean Blue Marine Pvt. Ltd. stated that beside the excise and VAT; 50% of the equipment has to be imported. Hence the duties charged on this equipment as well as the freight costs hardly lead to efficient production. Lack of skilled labor further dissuades manufacture of boats. Erwin Bamps, Chief Operating Officer, Gulf Craft Incorporation, stated that for boatyards to sustain themselves or an international yacht builder to consider investing in a set-up in India there needs to be a minimum turnover. To keep building continuously there has to be a consistent and healthy demand. As of now, the majority of the demand for boats comes from the government.
The Roundtable Session communicated the urgency of appropriate budget allocation and costs effective solutions for the sustainable growth of the Indian boating industry for the Indian boat builders and buyers. Capt. Soli Contractor, Indian Navy (Retd.), Regional Co-ordinator, National Maritime Foundation shared with us his first-hand experience while sailing with his friends along the coastline. He said that from registration of boats, to the operation of boats along the coastline, there were no clear cut guidelines for either. This might be one of the reasons why one is unable to come up with a clear cut solution. The formalities at different ports differ from each other leading to zero coherence. At some ports there is no distinction made between a yacht and a merchant vessel. Don’t be surprised if you are pulled up for not having a chief engineer on-board your sailboat! The Security concerns form an entirely separate debate. If something as fundamental and crucial as a temporary floating pontoon, at the Gateway of India, for safer embarking and disembarking is denied on the pretext of safeguarding security, then one begins to wonder about the efficiency of our security system altogether.
The next session laid stress on the fact that Boating and the Yachting Industry has presence in the country as a business but it is yet to be recognized as a sector. Cdr. T Jaiswal, Director, Training Division, Yachting Association of India (YAI), spoke of the importance of having a separate enactment for boating. Director General of Shipping & and Ex-. Officio Additional Secretary to the Government of India mentioned that they were in the process of doing so. Gautama Dutta, Director, Marine Solutions Distribution & Services Pvt. Ltd. further stressed the need for coherence in registration and regulation policies at all Indian ports. Guido Bothe, Director, Chinkara Motors Pvt. Ltd. has taken a small but the first initiative in drafting some initial policy frame work. If recommendations for amendments in policies were put forth to the regulators and the government, their implementation could help achieve the long term needs of the industry. The Inland Vessel Act, 1917 needs to be brought up to date to push the Yachting Industry in India to the next level of growth. The world markets have a separate enactment for their boating industry in their regulations. An authorized regulatory body for this industry has to be established. The non-availability of a single-window authority has stalled growth for India’s boating industry. Who will take the responsibility to establish it? In confusion, corruption breeds. If laws governing boating, for pleasure or commercial purpose, are yet to be laid down, does it make this entire industry illegal or does it make it plain lawless – you decide.
If you look at the yachting industry worldwide you will notice how heavily Tourism supports and promotes this unique culture. Although Mumbai is the heart of boating in India with over 70% of the boats parked at Gateway of India, the state government or the tourism Ministry of Maharashtra has done little to support or grow this unique culture. Boating and water sports make great vacation and holiday activities. Sailing for sport and recreation has unlimited benefits. There’s no better way to travel and explore the coastline. “Every wave is different,” explains Arun Nanda, Past Chairman, CII Western Region. Boating offers a quick get-away. Over weekends, families head out to sit by the sea or simply storm the malls. If only they could hop onto a boat of their own parked at a marina and explore the harbor or just travel to the next marina. If only the coastline were dotted with marinas the way roads are dotted malls and highways with dhabas. This would create the much needed “yachting culture”. It is a misconception that boating and marina facilities are only for the elite. Empower the middle class with this unique recreation and witness how rapidly the industry booms. India will undergo a socio-economic change. The CII Boating Conference welcomed Mr. Vipul Mittra, Secretary, Tourism, Gujarat Government, who presented Gujarat as the next best avenue for Boating in India.
The Gujarat government has recognized the potential in Marina Tourism. The year 2012 has seen a lot of international accolades come Gujarat’s way. The state has been ranked as the third best unsung tourist destination of the world by Lonely Planet. Besides its coastline of 1,600 km, Gujarat also offers the river front of the Sabarmati River and 18550 km2 of catchment area of the river basin lies in Gujarat. At an altitude of about 1000 m. Saputara is a planned hill station around the Saputara Lake. It offers all the necessary amenities like hotels, parks, swimming pools, boat club, theaters, ropeways and a museum to ensure an enjoyable holiday in the cool of the hill. The impression about Gujarat is not only that of a land of ‘Industrious people’, the state also offers a lot to an avid traveller. The state is renowned for its beaches, holy temples, and historic places of interest with immense architectural wealth, wildlife sanctuaries and hill resorts. The fascinating handicrafts, mouth-watering cuisine and colourful lifestyle of the people of Gujarat make it an attractive tourist destination. With a large coastline, rivers, lakes and dams, Gujarat may just be the ideal state to embrace boating and grow it effectively in India. Gujarat’s maritime sector is considered to be the most proactive and well developed sectors of India. During the year 2010-11, Gujarat’s ports handled about 231 million tons of cargo, which accounted for 80 per cent of the total cargo handled by all the minor ports of India. Maneck Davar, Chairman – CII’s International Boating Conference at MIBS 2012 and Chairman Mumbai Boat Show Pvt. Ltd. urges us to move forward and to move together; “The time is now, to build boats, marinas and hotels. Single window clearances are the need of the hour which will give birth to a thriving yachting culture and boost state economy.”
The best state to have established this culture is Kerala. Kochi can rightly be called India’s ‘yachtie oriented’ city. The Kochi International Marina is renowned to international boaters. Soon after its inauguration in 2010, there was a huge flow of visitors from UK, US, France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland. Other locations along the state’s coast have been recognized for their potential for tourism and marina development. However, the threat of pirates has had an adverse impact on Kochi. Gujarat shares part of its coastline with the Pakistani province of Sindh on the west. Security concerns may crop up once again but these should not come in the way of development. The country must build up its Naval forces for protection rather than impede on an entire industry’s progress.
To conclude, be it the Centre or state government, the Directorate General of shipping or the Yachting Association of India, be it state Tourism or Security, a Boat builder, a Boat owner, a Boat Show or all of them together led by a confederation; someone will have to ink down a separate legislation for this industry. This will reinforce the industry status for boating in India making it a systematic and organized industry. This will lead to expansion of maritime and sports related activities and education. It will give form to the scattered haphazard shape that boating is in at present. We need a separate and simple legislature and strong government support. This can only lead to more economic development and further growth in tourism, yachting, hospitality and other allied industries.
‘Ages ago there was a great king, and he was wise. And he desired to lay laws unto his subjects. He called upon one thousand wise men of one thousand different tribes to his capital and lay down the laws. And all this came to pass. But when the thousand laws written upon parchment were put before the king and he read them, he wept bitterly in his soul, for he had not known that there were one thousand forms of crime in his kingdom. Then he called his scribe, and with a smile upon his mouth he himself dictated laws. And his laws were but seven. And the one thousand wise men left him in anger and returned to their tribes with the laws they had laid down. And every tribe followed the laws of its wise men. Therefore they have a thousand laws even to our own day. It is a great country, but it has one thousand prisons, and the prisons are full of women and men, breakers of a thousand laws. It is indeed a great country, but the people thereof are descendants of one thousand law-givers and of only one wise king.’ – Khalil Gibran.
IndiaYachtPage.com congratulates the CII Boating Conference and the Mumbai International Boat Show on becoming the movers and shakers for India’s Boating Industry, an industry of immense social-economic potential and one which can and will change the face of India in more than one way.
Register with the CII:
Confederation of Indian Industry (WR),
105, Kakad Chambers,
132 Dr A B Road, Worli, Mumbai 400 018
Tel: 022 2493 1790
Fax: 022 2493 9463, 2494 5831
Dev Ranjan Mukherjee
Head – CII Gujarat State & Head – Conference
View images if the CII Boating Conference & Mumbai International Boat Show 2012. CLICK HERE.