The strategic location of Gujarat, as it opens out into the Arabian Sea, has been historically important for trade and commerce, with ancient countries like Sumer, Phoenicia, Rome, Iran, Egypt, East Africa, Malaya, Sumatra and China etc. Ancient period was the Golden Age of Shipping and Ship-building activities. Sir William Jones, a renowned scholar is of opinion that the Hindus ―must have been navigators in the age of Manu, because bottomry (the lender of money for marine insurance) is mentioned in it.

Ancient maritime centres which flourished at the Gujarat coastline are: 1) Padri, 2) Lothal, 3) Kuntasi, 4) Dholavira, 5) Bet Dwarka, 6) Malvan, 7) Vallabhi, 8) Bhagatrav, 9) Khambhat, 10) Mandvi and 11) Surat. Ports like Jakho, Lakhpat, Tuna, Mundra and Koteshwar had successfully been carrying out overseas business along the 352 Km stretch of Kutch seashore. 
Gujarat Maritime Board was founded in 1982 under the Gujarat Maritime Board Act, 1981, to manage, control and administer the minor ports of Gujarat. Such as Mandvi, Mundra, Dahej, Veraval, Okha etc. The stakeholders of GMB used to gather and resolved the then existing issues of port sector such as, congestion and delays, poor connectivity with hinterland and low loading rates.

Over the next two and half decades of operation, GMB planned the integrated development of new ports, along with the required road and rail links. And that led to a development of privatization such as privatizing port services to facilitating private jetties, shifting from the model of joint venture ports to completely private ports etc. GMB presently manages the 41 minor ports of the State with a vision “To enhance and harness ports and international trade as vehicles for economic development”. It is perhaps the only maritime body with an enviable feat, nationally and internationally.

Present Status of the Gujarat Ports:

Along the 1600 Kms. of coastline of Gujarat, there are 41 ports, of which Kandla is a major port. Out of remaining 40 ports, 11 are intermediate ports and 29 are minor ports under the control of Gujarat Maritime Board. These ports can be broadly classified into three categories.

  1. Three all weather ports viz: Porbandar, Okha and Sikka with all weather direct berthing facilities.
  2. Seven ports are all weather lighterage ports.
  3. The remaining thirty ports are fair weather lighterage ports for sailing vessels and fishing boats.
The minor and intermediate ports of Gujarat handled about 8.5% of national shipping cargo. Nevertheless, Gujarat ports handle about 16 million tonnes of cargo, which accounts for 70% of the total cargo handled by all minor ports of India.

Drafts of 8 to 10 meters are available at Porbandar, Okha and Sikka, where ships ranging from 15000 to 25000 tonnes are directly berthed. Except for Porbandar which handles container cargo for fish exports, container cargo handling facility does not exist in other ports. There is limited scope for expanding berthing facilities in the existing minor and intermediate ports.

The massive spurt in industrialization also opens up scope for import of industrial raw materials and export of finished goods to the global market through ports. The vast coastline of Gujarat, also offers tremendous potential for marine fisheries and subsequent processing and exports. Over and above this, any development in the hinterland State have a direct impact on Gujarat ports.

Pipavav port is an ideal location for a direct berthing port facility. Gujarat Maritime Board, along with a private sector company, is developing this port as a joint venture project. An estimated Rs.260 corers is likely to be invested in Pipavav port during the coming five years, developing it into a modern port in the Saurasthra region.
Gujarat is a pioneering, futuristic and entrepreneurial state of the country. In particular, Gujarat's maritime sector is considered to be the most proactive and well developed sectors of India. During the year 2009-10, ports handled about 206 million tonnes of cargo, which accounted for 80 per cent of the total cargo handled by all the minor ports of India.

The milestone achieved by the State of Gujarat in the port sector is by a virtue of its 1600 kms long coastline, its innovative strategic initiatives, proactive measures by the Government and above all a competent and channelized guidance provided by its GMB.