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India: Ports, Maritime Transportation, and Inland Waterways
Country Study > Chapter 6 > Character and Structure of the Economy > Transportation > Ports, Maritime Transportation, and Inland Waterways


India has eleven major seaports: Kandla, Bombay, Nhava Sheva, Marmagao, New Mangalore, and Kochi (formerly known as Cochin) on the west coast, and Calcutta-Haldia, Paradip, Vishakhapatnam, Madras, and Tuticorin on the east coast. The port at Nhava Sheva, located across the harbor from Bombay Port, was established in 1982 under the administration of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust as a separate port rather than an adjunct to Bombay. The eleven ports are the responsibility of the Ministry of State for Surface Transport but are managed by semi-independent port trusts overseen by boards appointed by the ministry from government departments, including the navy, port labor and industry, and ship owners and shipping companies.

In order of gross weight tonnage conveyed annually, Bombay, Vishakhapatnam, Madras, and Marmagao are the most important ports. In addition, there are some 139 minor working ports along the two coasts and on offshore islands administered by local, state, or union territory maritime administrations. Total traffic at the eleven major ports increased from 107 million tons in FY 1984 to 179 million tons in FY 1993. In FY 1993, some US$250 million in profits were earned, an achievement that attracted some US$4.5 billion in foreign investments in the ports in FY 1992-FY 1993.

In 1995 there were three government-owned shipping corporations, the most important of which was the Shipping Corporation of India. There were also between fifty and sixty private companies operating a total of 443 vessels amounting to 6.3 million gross registered tons, more than 300 of which were 1,000 gross registered tons or more. Indian tonnage represented 1.7 percent of the world total. Overall, the share of Indian vessels in total Indian trade is around 35 percent. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of capacity is underused. As a result of the global slump of the late 1980s, shipping companies experienced financial difficulties; the leading private shipping company, Scindia Steam Navigation Company, collapsed in 1987. The collapse left most Indian shipping under public ownership. The government's director general of shipping provides oversight for all aspects of shipping.

India has four major and three medium-sized shipyards, all government run. The Cochin Shipyards in Kochi, Hindustan Shipyard in Vishakhapatnam, and Hooghly Dock and Port Engineers in Calcutta are the most important shipbuilding enterprises in India. Thirty-five smaller shipyards are in the private sector. Drydocks at Kochi and Vishakhapatnam accommodate the nation's major ship repair needs.

In addition to its coastal and ocean trade routes, India has more than 16,000 kilometers of inland waterways. Of that number, more than 3,600 kilometers are navigable by large vessels, although in practice only about 2,000 kilometers are used. Inland waters are regulated by the Inland Waterways Authority of India, which was established in 1986 to develop, maintain, and regulate the nation's waterways and to advise the central and state governments on inland waterway development.

Data as of September 1995

Last Updated: September 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for India was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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