By Surya Desaraju

Visakhapatnam: The delay in modernising the fishing harbour here may adversely impact the export of seafood from Andhra Pradesh.

However, the state government has said work on the project will start soon and it has agreed to share 50 per cent of the modernisation cost of the Vizag Fishing Harbour (VFH).

Andhra Pradesh exports seafood mostly to European countries. AP's share in seafood exports was Rs 17,000 crore out of the gross national value of Rs 37,871 crore in 2016-17.

For two years now, the state government has not been able to release its (50 per cent) share of the total Rs 40 crore required to modernise the VFH.

The VFH was set up in 1976 over a 26-acre site and has 11 jetties and about 700 mechanised boats in operation.

Unhygienic conditions in the harbour area, including the fish landing points, bad state of drainage, connecting roads, storage facility and poor street lighting are some of the problems plaguing the VFH.

It suffered damage during the Tsunami in December 2004 and the devastating hurricane Hudhud in October 2014.

The Marine Products Export Development Authority prepared a detailed project report for modernising the VFH at a cost of Rs 40 crore, which includes creation of export cubicles, improvement of drainage facilities, roads and jetties.

"“The Centre gave its nod to bear 50 per cent of the cost two years ago under the Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme.

"The state government, instead of releasing its own funds, approached the National Fisheries Development Board and the Visakhapatnam Port Trust to share the remaining portion," a top official involved in the plans said.

While the NFDB rejected the state government proposal, the VPT agreed to spend Rs 20 crore but on the condition that user charges be enhanced considerably. "The state government did not agree to this," the official added.

The plan envisages modernising the VFH on par with global standards. More than two months ago, the state agreed to sanction its share of Rs 20 crore but has not yet formally communicate the matter to the Centre.

"We haven't received any communication yet from the state. Once we receive it, we will take up the project under Sagarmala (a mega port modernisation plan)," a top official attached to the Union Ministry of Shipping said.

Teams from the European Union, during their visits to Visakhapatnam over the years, have reportedly expressed their dissatisfaction over the sanitary conditions at the VFH.

Last year, a group of state ministers conducted a meeting with Visakhapatnam Port Trust Chairman M T Krishna Babu and agreed to take up the issue with Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu for getting Rs 20 crore released.

"We have agreed to share 50 per cent of the VFH modernisation cost and will soon take up the works," Minister for Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Adinarayana Reddy told PTI.

The works could be completed in four-five months once tenders were finalised, he said. (PTI)