The Andhra Pradesh Maritime Board (APMB), which embarked on an ambitious programme of building a string of ports and fishing harbours along its nearly 975-km-long coastline, is strongly opposing the draft Indian Ports Bill, 2020, mainly because it proposes the establishment of a single Maritime Port Regulatory Authority for all minor ports.

The board expressed its reservations in writing to the Secretary of Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways recently by highlighting the fact that the legislation sought to usurp the powers of minor ports while sparing the major ports to have their own regulatory authorities under the Major Ports Regulatory Authority Act, 2020.

The APMB said minor ports were a subject under the Concurrent list of the Constitution and that by taking away the powers of maritime boards/State governments related to minor ports, the Union government would be depriving the “right of the States to drive their economies”.

The APMB that pointed out that it was the State governments which provided land and created infrastructure for the development of minor ports.

It insisted that the draft Indian Ports Bill, 2020 should be referred to the Maritime States’ Development Council (MSDC) to sort out the issues being raised by the States and that if the Centre still intended to proceed to enact the Bill without taking the stakeholders into confidence, at least the existing ports and those under construction should be exempted.

Speaking to AP Maritime Board CEO N.P. Ramakrishna Reddy said that since the minor ports were a matter of Pre-Constitutional Law, the draft Indian Ports Bill, 2020 ought to be settled by the Law Commission of India by taking into consideration the views of all maritime States.

He stated that the Bill had not been placed before the MSDC though the proposal to repeal the Indian Ports Act of 1908 was initiated through the draft Indian Ports Bill, 2018 and the present Bill was brought forth.

“Since the overall control on ports, including land and the waterfront (up to baseline in inland waters), is in the purview of respective maritime States, the Centre cannot encroach upon the powers of the State governments,” Mr. Reddy asserted, while emphasising on the Centre’s responsibility to look into the observations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee also.