National Maritime Day in India Date in the current year: April 5, 2024

National Maritime Day in India National Maritime Day in India is celebrated on April 5. Unlike Navy Day, which is observed on December 4, it primarily celebrates civilian shipping.

Indian maritime history begins millennia ago. Inhabitants of the Indus Valley began maritime trade with Mesopotamia during the 3rd millennium BC. Following the annexation of Egypt by the Roman Empire, they began to trade with Romans as well. Indian spices, incenses and textiles were the main import from India to the Western world.

Early Indian maps and navigation charts were rather primitive, since Indian cartographers had little knowledge of scale. However, they did use the Pole Star and constellations for the purpose of navigation. It was Greek and Islamic cartographers who first produced more accurate navigational charts of the Indian Ocean.

In addition to a trade fleet, many Indian rulers attempted to organize some sort of a navy to protect their trading ships. The need to maintain a navy became more urgent during the Late Middle Ages, when the first European vessels began to arrive in India from Portugal and the Netherlands. For example, Shivaji I, the founder of the Maratha Empire, maintained a navy under the charge of Kanhoji Angre, successfully fighting against the Portuguese, Dutch and British naval interests on the Indian coast, as well as preventing the Mughal Empire from trading with Europe.

Following the British conquest of India and the formation of the British Raj, the Indian navy was disbanded and replaced by the UK’s Royal Navy. However, Indian shipbuilders continued to build ships for the Royal Navy. These ships included, for instance, HMS Hindostan, HMS Ceylon, HMS Asia, HMS Cornwallis, and HMS Minden. Between 1736 and 1821, the Bombay Dockyard produced 159 ships of over 100 tons, including 15 ships of over 1,000 tons.

In 1919, several Indian entrepreneurs from Gujarat founded the Scindia Steam Navigation Company, which became India’s first large-scale shipping company owned entirely by local businessmen. The newly founded company purchased SS Loyalty, formerly known as Empress of India, from the ruler of Gwalior.

On April 5, 1919, SS Loyalty embarked on its journey to the United Kingdom. This was a milestone in Indian shipping history as the SS Loyalty was the first ship in a long time owned solely by the Indian people. National Maritime Day was established in 1964 to celebrate this important event and honor Indian entrepreneurs who helped revive India’s shipping industry.

Today, India’s maritime transport and shipping are regulated by the Ministry of Shipping, which used to be part of the Ministry of Transport. It is tasked with developing and implementing shipping policies and programs. Its jurisdiction encompasses major ports, shipyards, national waterways, and inland water transport.

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