The ancient port-town of Mandvi in southern Kutch, known for its shipbuilding activities for ages, is currently witnessing an unprecedented growth with 25 to 30 wooden vessels under construction on the bed of the River Rukmavati, which meets the Arabian sea on the outskirts of the old town.
“The 400-year-old and Rs 300-crore industry had never seen such a spurt in shipbuilding activities as it has seen in the last two years, and that too, without any government help. It could easily double its growth if the government and financial institutions like banks came forward to provide help as is being frequently urged by the shipbuilding community,” said Vadilal Doshi, president of the Mandiv Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He said traditional shipbuilders were illiterate men, having acquired their skills from their forefathers.
He regretted that even though the government had assured to extend help to this foreign exchange earning industry, nothing concrete had been done so far. “Mandvi Vahanvata Association president Noormohammad Sanghani and I had met state industries minister Anil Patel a year ago at Mandvi, and apprised him of the problems faced by the shipbuilders. He was convinced and even showed the government’s readiness to import second-hand engines from Dubai to be fitted here instead of the newly built vessels going all the way to the foreign countries for this purpose. There after, we have sent several reminders, but all in vain,” said Doshi, a close aide of former chief minister Suresh Mehta (Mehta belongs to this place).
He said it took almost two years to build a vessel and since it has to be mechanised, it was towed to Dubai for engine installation, which cost anything from Rs 50 lakh to Rs1 crore.
“There is a second hand market for good quality foreign-made engines, which are given on credit and easy loans because of the age-old trading connections with the Gulf countries. While worldwide shipbuilders easily get credit, banks in our country are hesitant to give loans. They consider shipping to be a risky business.
“Also, they charge high interest with immediate affect, which shipbuilders can ill afford. We want interest to be charged on completion of the ship. When we told this to Patel, he was shocked. He suggested that it would be better if the government imported these machines, which could be given to the shipbuilders on easy loans,” he said.
Another big problem faced by the industry was the very high insurance premium. “It is 3 to 5 percent of the ship’s cost. No one can pay this. And, the experience so far has been that even inspite of having insurance cover, they have never got their insurance amount within three months of the accident as promised in the rule books,” he said.
Courtesy: Ahmedabad Newsline - Ahmedabad,India