Norway-India Maritime Cooperation in the era of Digitalisation & Sustainability

Both India and Norway have long, glorious maritime heritage. The NITI Aayog is working on a strategy to make India Blue-Economy. This means the increasingly important role of the rivers, lakes and the exclusive economic zone in the economic growth and social development of the country.  It has created an ocean of opportunities for India & Norway – World’s Leading Maritime Technology Nation, to work together.

Ancient Indian ship as depicted in the Vedic Literature
Ancient Indian ship as depicted in the Vedic Literature

The Norwegian Viking Ship displayed in Viking Ship Museum, Oslo
The Norwegian Viking Ship displayed in Viking Ship Museum, Oslo

India has less than 1% share in global shipbuilding,and the Ministry of Shipping has set the ambitious target of taking it to 5% by 2020. The share of waterways in India’s transportation sector is about 3.5% which is significantly lower than some of the developing economies. Transport Corporation of India (TCI) has highlighted the need to shift from roads and railways to waterways to bring down the logistics cost from current level of 18% to 12%. We have seen some concrete steps being taken by the Indian Government to develop the maritime sector. Ship-building industry has been granted infrastructure status which makes it eligible for financial incentives. The Indian Parliament has approved the development of 106 additional inland waterways to existing 5. Coastal shipping routes have been opened with Bangladesh.

The international frenzy to dominate seas & disruptive technologies

Let’s look at some of the factors influencing maritime sector globally. International waters are gaining more and more strategic importance, the global centre of power is shifting towards the east and impact the climate change has created the possibility of Arctic shipping routes being open throughout the year. As a part of China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI), a freight train from Yiwu on the east coast of China reached London in 20 days, 25-30 days faster than the sea routes. One thing which hasn’t changed much in shipping is speed. This will get challenged by technologies like Hyperloop. In fact, Hyperloop has the potential to be the biggest disruptor in the transportation sector. There is increasing talk of SMART ships where automation, robotics and big data play a significant role. With this, maritime cybersecurity has become extremely critical. Norwegian maritime industry has set new benchmarks of safety, environmental friendliness and efficiency making Norway World’s Leading Maritime Technology Nation.

Sustainable Shipping

India as a signatory to the Paris Climate Accord has commitments towards greenhouse gas emissions. In that direction, there are plans to shift from oil & coal-based economy to gas-based economy in a phased manner. LNG is gaining acceptance as fuel for the future. Norway has world’s most sophisticated network of Small Scale LNG carriers (SSLC). Given the challenges in land acquisition, safety & environmental concerns. SSLC have significant potential in India in connecting the LNG terminals to points of consumption.
The first LNG-fuelled vessel in the world was launched in Norway in the year 2000. Today, of the 103 in service LNG fuelled vessels worldwide, majority operate in Norway thanks to the NOx Fund which provides financial incentives to such ships. Norwegian experience of designing, building and managing the LNG fueled fleet, as well as the SSLC, will be relevant for India.
A step further, Norwegian shipyards have started building hybrid and battery operated vessels. The vessel shown here is Ampere -world’s first fully electric battery powered passenger and car ferry. 

Ampere - fully electric battery powered passenger and car ferry
Ampere – fully electric battery powered passenger and car ferry

Built-in Fjellstrand shipyard, the ferry has saved 1 million litres diesel per year; 2680 metric tons of CO2 & 37 metric tons of NOx has been mitigated. It has near silent operation. Ulstein Verft shipyard is building world’s first & largest Plugin Hybrid vessel which will be operational from 2019 and have zero emissions. Viking Lady is an Offshore Supply Vessel that uses Fuel Cell Technology for propulsion. It has been described as the Most Environment-Friendly Vessel ever built.

Passenger Ferries & Small-Mid Size Cargo Vessel

Road and railway network in India is crumbling; leading to delays, damages, accidents and cost overruns. India needs to shift this burden from roads & railways to inland waterways & coastal shipping routes. Development of multimodal-transportation hubs will ensure seamless movement of raw materials & finished goods. Compared to 47% in China, 43-44% in Japan & Korea and about 40% in Europe, only 6% of total freight in India is carried through waterways. Water transport is not only environment-friendly but also economical. Per km cost of water transport is only 12-15% of road and 25% of the cost by railways.
There is enormous potential to utilise water transport in major urban agglomerations like Mumbai, Goa, Mangalore, Cochin, Vizag, Kolkata etc. The entire stretch of NW-1, connecting southern Gujarat & Mumbai, rivers in the North-East and the backwaters of Kerala can be developed as arteries of transportation. This will generate demand for passenger ferries and small to mid-size cargo vessels which can operate along the coast as well as in the rivers. Indian ship-designers, shipyards and other stakeholders must start working on those lines. At a time when India is shifting to 100% Green Mobility by 2030, these vessels can also be run on clean fuel heralding an era of Green Transportation in India. Norway has very advanced & well developed coastal shipping infrastructure. DNV-GL recently launched a Green Coastal Traffic Program which envisages joint efforts of industry and authorities to make Norwegian shipping and shipping fleet more environment-friendly & efficient. There can be knowledge sharing on this between our countries.

Project Sagarmala – Learning from Norwegian Maritime Clusters & Centers of Expertise

17% of India’s total population (Census 2011) belongs to 66 districts in 9 states & 4 union territories along the coasts. About 250-300 million people live within 50 km of the coastline. These numbers are enough to highlight the important role these areas can play in India’s economic growth & social development. SAGARMALA project is an attempt to boost the coastal economy by setting up industrial clusters around ports.

Norway has world’s most successful network of maritime clusters. These clusters are based on the principle of Regional Specialization. South Norway around Stavanger specialises in oil & gas industry, the west coast around Bergen specialises in industrial shipping whereas the Northwest region focusses on offshore vessels that include fishing as well. These clusters work closely with the academic institutes, research organisations, financial institutes and Centers of Expertise.                                            Source: Norwegian Government’s Maritime Strategy Document

SAGARMALA can use this core principle of regional specialisation for the development of industrial clusters. E.g. Kakinada -Vizag belt can be developed for offshore industry including deep sea fishing. Gujarat coast which already has substantial LNG infrastructure can focus on LNG, ship repair & recycle. Similarly, Goa has Institute of Ship Building Technology (ISBT), Institute of Maritime Studies (IMS), shipyards (both commercial & defence) and robust ancillary supply chain, can be developed into Green Shipping cluster that specialises in passenger ferries, small-mid size cargo vessels. This can also cater to the local tourism industry. Cochin has India’s premier defence shipyard; it’s close to the international shipping route. It has all the elements required to emerge as the hub of SMART Shipping which can focus on futuristic technologies. Institutes like NIO & NIOT along with ocean research departments of IIT Chennai & Kharagpur should be developed as Global Centers of Expertise.

Automation, Digitalization & Maritime Cybersecurity  

Digitalization is driving all the changes towards sustainability, safety, efficiency and productivity. The world has started moving towards Autonomous Shipping where vessels will be operated from on-shore control stations. While the cost of operation of these vessels will be lower and they are likely to improve the safety aspect; cybersecurity becomes a critical factor.
As per some survey’s, about 80% accidents at sea are due to human errors. Since 1850, average crew size has come down from 250 to 15. These numbers point towards unmanned Ships as the future of shipping. The EU is working on Project MUNIN: Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence & Networks. SINTEF Ocean in Norway is testing a prototype autonomous vessel in the Trondheim fjord. Yara fertilizers and Kongsberg are working on World’s First Zero Emission, Autonomous Container Feeder. The vessel will be called as Yara Birkeland. It will be operational by 2020 and save 40,000 truck journeys annually. All these developments will impact the maritime industry in India sooner or later. 

Ocean of opportunities for Norway-India Maritime cooperation

As India embarks on the journey to become Blue-economy, exploring and securing its maritime resources/assets will be a strategic need. The vast EEZ of India holds huge potential for offshore wind, offshore aquaculture as well as deep-sea mining. Norwegian maritime industry has the required knowledge, expertise & necessary technology in all these areas which makes it a natural partner for India. There is an Ocean of Opportunities for Norway-India Maritime Co-operation!

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