Shipping plays a crucial role in a country like India with a coastline of 7516 km long. In 2001 there were 122 shipping companies. Of these about 40 were engaged in international trade. In 2001 net operative tonnage consisted of 546 ships with a gross registered tonnage of about 69,00,000. The ships belong to both government and private companies and operate almost on all routes around the world. There are 12 major ports, 25 intermediate ports and 156 minor ports. A major port handle traffic of 10 lath tonnes every year and is handled by a trust. A minor port handles less than 10 lath tonnes. Mumbai is a major port, Pondicherry is a minor port.
(A) Ports on the Western coast
(1) Kandla. This port is located at the head of Rann of Kutch. It is a new port and is expected to take the place of Karachi. it is a natural and safe harbour. It is a tidal port. It is connected with a vast and rich hinterland of North West India. It is located on the Suez Canal Route.
(2) Mumbai. Mumbai occupies central position on the west coast of India. It stands on an island connected with the mainland. It is the only natural deep water harbour of India. It is connected with Europe through Suez Canal. It has rich productive hinterland of black cotton soil region. A hinterland is an area which serves a port for its international trade. For example, Mumbai port is connected well with its hinterland of states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana. It is also known as the “Gateway of India.” A new port at Nhava Sheva near Mumbai has been developed.
(3) Marmugao. This port lies on the west coast in Goa. it is deep natural harbour. Its hinterland includes Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
(4) Cochin. Cochin lies on the Malabar coast in Kerala. It is called the queen of the Arabian Sea. It is a safe, deep and natural harbour. It is located on the route to Australia and the Far East. It is important naval centre and a shipyard.
A new naval port of Karwar is being developed on Canara coast. New Mangalore is a major port of Karnataka. It exports iron ore from Kudremukh.
(B) Ports on the Eastern coast
(5) Kolkata. It is a river port on the mouth of Hooghly about 120 km inland. It has a rich hinterland of productive agricultural Ganges-Brahmaputra delta and Chota Nagpur region rich in minerals. It is located on the route to Japan and U.S.A. It is a tidal port. A new port at Haldia is being developed to share the burdens of Kolkata.
(6) Vishakhapatnam. It is a new major port on the east coast of India. It lies mid way between Kolkata and Chennai. it is a well protected natural harbour enclosed by hard rocks of Dolphin nose. It is connected with a mining region of iron ore, coal and manganese.
(7) Paradeep. It is a new major port on the Orissa coast. It is a deep natural port. It has a vast hinterland of Orissa with minerals, forest products and agricultural resources. It exports iron ore to Japan.
(8) Chennai. It is an artificial man-made port on the east coast. Two concrete walls (Break waters) have been built to provide shelter. Its hinterland includes Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. It is a rich agricultural region. Tuticorin is a new major port on S.E. Coast of Tamil Nadu.
Comparison between a harbour and a port.
Importance of Shipping
Shipping and navy are both important for India,s progress and defence. From almost negligible presence at the time of Independence, India today ranks 17th in world shipping tonnage.
Development of shipping is crucial for development of economic fisheries zone. India has to develop coastal and deep sea fishing. India’s rich oil field, Mumbai High lies in the offshore region. Some other minerals are also found in this area. India’s foreign trade is carried by ships through Indian Ocean.