Speech by Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen at the Inauguration of Indo-Dutch Forum on Smart & Sustainable Port Development

“India’s long coastline and its major rivers are invaluable. When they’re well-maintained, they’re efficient and sustainable transport routes that no overland option can compete with!”
Speech by Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen at the Inauguration of the Indo-Dutch Forum on Smart & Sustainable Port Development, 23 May 2018

Mr Mandaviya, friends from the Indian and Dutch maritime sectors,

Welcome to the first ever Indo-Dutch Forum on Smart & Sustainable Port-led Development. And what a wonderful location we find ourselves in. This majestic hotel is intertwined with both the history of Mumbai and the maritime history of India. It’s a pleasure to see so many people in this impressive room. It shows that we all recognise the vital importance of good port infrastructure for India’s economy and for the prosperity of its people.

When I came here in my days as a Member of the European Parliament – I saw a confident India with big ambitions. Both national and international. And I see that again today. I see an India that is moving forward through large-scale programmes like Make in India, Clean Ganga, Smart Cities and, of course, Sagar Mala. I see an India that is welcoming foreign companies with open arms and which is working hard to remove obstacles to investment. Cutting the red tape and replacing it with a red carpet, in the words of Prime Minister Modi!
The new approach is working. India has shot up the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. This country is well on its way to becoming the world’s third-largest economy. According to the World Bank and the IMF, India can expect a growth rate that’s both steady and high.
These are great results. And a good basis for new investment. The Netherlands is eager to make a contribution!

Right now, we’re India’s fifth-largest foreign investor. And we certainly have a lot to offer in view of India’s major infrastructure projects. This was the reason for the Memorandum of Understanding that we signed in 2008. It envisaged bilateral cooperation in the port, maritime transport and logistics sectors. We were keen to extend this MoU in 2011, 2014 and 2017. And today’s forum is one of its important deliverables.

But it’s not about the agreements we have on paper. It’s about making inland waterways navigable and dredging ports to accommodate larger vessels. It’s about increasing port turnaround times. It’s about speeding up hinterland-to-vessel transport.
India’s long coastline and its major rivers are invaluable. When they’re well-maintained, they’re efficient and sustainable transport routes that no overland option can compete with! Especially because railways in India are mainly designed for passenger transport.
I’d briefly like to take you to our country, the Netherlands. Compared to yours, the Dutch coastline is rather modest. But our strategic position on the North Sea and in the delta of three major European rivers has brought us many benefits. According to the World Economic Forum, we’re the world’s fourth most competitive economy. Something we’re very proud of.

And it’s mainly thanks to our coastal location. For more than 400 years we’ve been sailing the world’s oceans on the lookout for goods to trade. Diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and India go back 70 years. But we’ve enjoyed steady trade relations for 400 years!
Rotterdam has grown to become Europe’s largest port. While Amsterdam is at number four. Our port infrastructure and hinterland connections – including inland waterways – are among the best in the world. So too are our hydraulic engineering and shipbuilding companies and maritime service providers. The Netherlands has the biggest inland shipping fleet in Europe.

We do not have as beautiful a monument as the Gateway of India. But we think the Netherlands is, without a doubt, the Gateway to Europe!

The main thing I want to say is this: being a coastal nation with major inland rivers offers huge potential. And the same holds for India.

What’s more, you have a plan! Sagar Mala – ‘String of Pearls’ – is not only a wonderful name. It’s a great plan too. And I was pleased to read that you’re taking Rotterdam as an example of what you want to achieve. The Port of Rotterdam Development Strategy has proven to be a real engine for growth – adding no less than 3 per cent to our GDP. It has also created 130,000 jobs. I’m sure Victor Schoenmakers, the port’s Director of Corporate Strategy, will say more about the economic dynamics later this morning…

And let’s not forget the Port of Amsterdam, which is also home to one of the world’s most sophisticated and busiest metropolitan cruise terminals. Managing Director of the Port of Amsterdam International Gert-Jan van Nieuwenhuizen – no relation! – will speak later today on how to combine a city’s liveability with vibrant cruise tourism. Amsterdam might serve as a model to be emulated here in Mumbai! Indeed, JM Baxi and the Port of Amsterdam will sign a Memorandum of Understanding a little later.

Ladies and gentlemen,

You have the plan. Now it’s about implementing it. And that’s why we’re here today. Because working together benefits everyone.
We can share smart solutions for port and inland logistics. In areas like sustainable port development, for example. Dutch research institutions like Deltares, engineering firms, dredging companies like Van Oord and Boskalis and the Dutch ports are working around the world on masterplanning, engineering, dredging and port management.

Also, there’s education and training. One example I’d like to highlight is the cooperation between the Gujarat Maritime Board and the Port of Rotterdam. Digital innovation also offers major opportunities. Indian IT specialists are acclaimed around the world. We want to learn from you! So it’s fantastic that Cogoport has decided to open offices in Rotterdam. You’ll be signing a confirmation letter later today. Obviously, we see enough reasons to choose the Netherlands. But it’s great that you agree!

Ladies and gentlemen,

India and the Netherlands might be different in many ways. But as maritime countries with major inland rivers we’re sitting on a gold mine. So let’s start digging together!
Meh aapko sjoebkaamenai detie hoe  (I wish you all the best).

Thank you.