As we all know that 5th April is marked as the National Maritime Day of India to commemorate the sailing of India’s first steamship Loyalty on April 5th 1919 from Mumbai to London. But from 1964 the day has been observed as National Maritime Day and all major ports observe this day celebrating India’s seafaring traditions and journeys.
Since the dawn of history Indians have participated in international sea-borne commerce. The advent of Europeans opened India’s coasts for trade and commerce. After Independence Indian shipping began to progress at a rapid pace. The Indian Navy, which is responsible for guarding the country’s shores and protecting our shipping in times of war, has also considerably expanded and strengthened into a potent force.
The London-based International Maritime Organisation is the United Nation’s specialized agency responsible for improving maritime safety and preventing pollution from ships. The Organisation also convenes international maritime conferences and drafts international maritime conventions from time to time. IMO has 158 countries as its members, India became its member in 1959.
India has about 7516 kilometres of coastline serviced by a total of 182 ports, 12 of them under a special status as Major Ports being under the purview of the Central Government. 70 other ports termed as minor ones come under the jurisdiction of the respective State Governments. Ennore in Tamil Nadu has been declared as the 12th Major Port.
Earlier Six Major Ports- Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi, Kandla and Visakhapatnam were in existence. Paradip, Tuticorin, New Mangalore, Marmugao and Jawaharlal Nehru Ports were included in this group of Major Ports after 1963. Further, Haldia Dock was developed by 1977 under the jurisdiction of Kolkata Port Trust.
Presently, 90 per cent of India’s international trade in terms of volume and 77 per cent in terms of value is moved by sea. India continues to have the largest merchant shipping fleet among the developing countries and ranks 17th in the world in terms of shipping tonnage.
Hence, the importance of Maritime Day is very vast. On this day, the country renews its abiding faith in the importance of maritime zone as well as sea route for an all-round development of the nation. The country also resolves to protect, preserve and defend its maritime zone and right to navigate in the high seas and international zones.