Union shipping and ports minister Nitin Gadkari said the government will be giving Rs 500 crore to the Shipping Corporation of India to purchase ships in the international market and lease it out domestically, reported PTI.
"We will be giving Rs 500 crore to the SCI under the Sagarmala programme to purchase vessels which are available for cheap due to a slump in international market," the minister said, speaking at an industry event here.
He said state-run SCI will lease out the assets to private parties who may have difficulties arranging the capital but can deploy the assets locally for productive uses.
The ships can be used either for cruise tourism, roll on roll off services which entail ferrying cars through the sea route and also ro-pax where a car carrying passengers is ferried in a boat.
Gadkari said there is a need to shift the road traffic to the seas domestically and we should take advantage of the international situation where assets are available for cheap at present.
He cited the example of a local entrepreneur who bought a boat at throwaway prices and is deploying it on the Mumbai-Goa route for cruise tourism starting from October after refurbishing it.
Gadkari specifically mentioned the financial difficulties hit Greece as a market where vessels can be tapped for cheap.
He said the money will come as a grant and the SCI will not have to worry about the finances and also hinted that the government is willing to cover for the losses which may happen because of the initiative.
Gadkari said it is essential to shift to cleaner fuels like methanol and ethanol which will also serve as a substitute to the imported fuels, and added that state-run Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilisers is setting up a dedicated facility to produce those at Thal in Maharashtra.
He said on a pilot basis, 10 buses each will be run on the cleaner and cheaper fuels in Guwahati and Mumbai.
Eventually, diesel engines can also be converted into methanol-based ones, he said.
There is also a need for the sea trade to shift to the cleaner fuels, he said, adding that Cochin Shipyard is setting up a facility in the financial capital where such retrofitting will be carried out.