India's shipping industry is a good 15 years behind its Chinese counterpart but has the potential to catch up soon, say international maritime and shipping industry experts. Although India has the potential to do extremely well in the sector it will be a while before shipping reaches Chinese standards, let alone international standards, they opine. “The Chinese (shipping) industry is at least 10-15 years ahead of India in terms of technology and efficiency. But India does have the potential to bridge the gap,” said Henk G. Lacet, an international maritime expert from Holland.
'But it is unreasonable to expect the Indian shipping industry to reach international standards overnight,' said Lacet. Talking about India's strengths, Lacet said it should use the long coastline to its advantage and develop more ports. He also pointed the availability of cheap labour as another advantage that could boost India's maritime capabilities. China is already recognised as a shipping superpower with its oceangoing fleet numbering more than 1,500 with a capacity of 37 million deadweight tonnage (DWT), bringing it up from the twelfth rank position in 1978 to the current fourth.
With a coastline of 6,000 km and navigable and potentially navigable inland waterways of nearly 14,500 km, together with its strategic location in South Asia and a booming economy, India is still ranked seventeenth among the world maritime nations. The Indian shipping industry consists of about 616 ships, with a total capacity of 7.1 million DWT. Of these, only about 258 ships are engaged in overseas trade and the rest ply on inland routes.