Initiatives for cargo transport by waterways
There are distinct signs that cargo movement by the inland waterway system is gaining popularity in India
Report of recent successes in shifting substantial amount of cargo traditionally moved by road to the inland waterways of India is indeed a big break for the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI). Set up under the Union Ministry of Shipping, government of India, IWAI has made significant headway in promoting the movement of bulk cargo such as coal, fertilizer, food grains, cement, besides encouraging Ro-Ro, passenger and pleasure cruise service by the five national waterways. As a result of IWAI’s recent endeavors, the state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC), India’s largest thermal power generating company has opted for large-scale barge movement of coal from the unloading ports to the plants located near the river front. NTPC has stepped up coal imports in order to meet the projected jump in fuel requirement.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between IWAI & NTPC in Sept. 2008 for facilitating imported coal for NTPC TPS on NW-1. NTPC gave its commitment for transportation of 3 MMTPA imported coal by IWT mode for Farakka STPP. After the bidding process a tripartite agreement was signed on 11 August 2011 between NTPC, IWAI and Jindal-ITF and the movement of coal is now set to commence soon.
Multi-pronged efforts are underway to shift substantial amount of cargo moved by road to the inland waterways of India. A spokesman of IWAI informing about its other successes stated that after trial run, M/s Vivada transported HSD from Silghat to Budge-Budge by chartering vessels using Indo-Bangladesh Protocol route. Thereafter, Bangladeshi vessels have also been transporting HSD from Silghat in NW-2 to Baghabari in Bangladesh. NTPC is ready to commit transportation of 3 MMTPA imported coal by IWT from Haldia to Barh and 0.5 MMTPA from Haldia to Jogighopa by IWT and thereafter by rail for 7 years.
The five national waterways as declared by Parliament extends to a total length of 4382 km. Cargo movement by the inland waterways increased from 56 million tonnes (3.39 btkm) in 2007-08 to 68 million tonnes (4.67 btkm) in 2011-12. By 2024-25 the government has targeted achieving 20 btkm by 2024-25.
About 1.518 million tonnes of fly ash was transported last year (April 2011 – March 12). Over dimensional cargo is regularly transportated from Kolkata to Jamania, Fatua, Balia, Tejpur and Ashuganj. Also stone chips movement from Rajmahal to Doriganj and container movement on the West Coast Canal (205 km) now takes place regularly. More than 35,000 TEUs and 15,000 chassis movements have been recorded. Edible oil, silica sand, cement, iron dust, stone chips and ODC are transported on the River Ganga - the NW-1 which extends to a length of 1620 km.
RO-RO barge service to and from International Container Transshipment Terminal in South India operated by the Dubai Ports World (DPW), employing 8000 TEUs capacity container vessel is set to take place. IWAI in collaboration with Cochin Port Trust established IWT terminals at Bolgatty and Willingdon Island for feeding containers to Vallarpadam by IWT mode thus reducing congestion in Kochi city
State-owned Food Corporation of India (FCI) has come forward showing willing to transport food grains to the North East Regions of India through the waterways. IWAI has placed one 300 MT vessel at Pandu for movement of FCI cargo within NW-2 on voyage charter basis. FCI also want to transport foodgrains from Kolkata to Agartala via Ashuganj by IWT. A paradigm shift in the freight movement pattern is likely in the coming years in India.