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Waterways/Coastal transport in India to reach 100 mn in five years from 2 mn at present: DG shipping, Govt of India

The objective is to promote integrated waterways as a preferred mode of transportation of cargo enhancing domestic and regional connectivity

Government of India, India’s maritime and logistics sector, ASSOCHAM India, Inland Waterways and Coastal Shipping, Integrated waterways, Inland Waterways Transport, Amitabh Kumar, Director General Shipping, Shipping industry, Multimodal, Capt Sandeep Mehta, Adani Ports & SEZ, Minor and major ports, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan, Dr Amita Prasad

The government of India has taken several initiatives to drive India’s maritime and logistics sector and boost the connectivity of its hinterland with its trade partners globally. ASSOCHAM India taking this initiative forward invited stakeholders to discuss the Augmenting Trade Potential Through Inland Waterways and Coastal Shipping. The objective is to promote integrated waterways as a preferred mode of transportation of cargo enhancing domestic and regional connectivity and to identify strategies for creating opportunities in Inland Waterways Transport (IWT) the sector through private investments, policy incentivisation and linkages with new business models.

In his address speech Amitabh Kumar, Director General Shipping, Govt of India, said “The linkage of inland waterways to coastal waterways is not only time being but essential. Embarking the major project of shifting cargos from rail and road to inland waterways. There is a possibility of increasing the navigable waterways if we use the canal system to it. We have 1429 vessels registered under the merchant shipping act. More than 900 vessels are operating at coastal routes.”

He pointed out that “problem with the shipping industry is even if the cargos are available, the routes are not financially viable. There is the dearth of goods that need to be transported. There is enough produce available in the hinterland to fill thousands and thousands of ships. Logistics has the potential to be the biggest game-changer for India agriculture. What we lack in India is a good agglomeration service for small producers. The shipping industry is not known for engaging in marketing. We need to set up an organisation which can do marketing. He added,  “Transportation can be made multimodal mode. It will give us an impetus to start and provide end to end solution. In the next 5 years, the total transportation in the coastal goods will be increased from the present 2 million to 100 million and the requirement of 20000 trans vessels will increase from 1-100."

Delivering the welcome address, Capt Sandeep Mehta, chairman - ASSOCHAM National Council on Ports & Shipping and president Adani Ports & SEZ, said, “India is blessed with long coastlines having minor and major ports and intermediate ports which lie in the geographical proximity giving the national advantage to build the country shipping. The Government of India is giving a special subsidy scheme to transport the bulk goods through the inland waterways instead of highways. Given the availability of rich minerals and resources, the west coast districts are suitable for the development of the extractive industry. With the growth potential of these industries, there lies the huge potential of growth of coastal and inland waterways."

He added, “The Inland waterways authority of India is focussing on strengthening the Indo Bangladesh protocol rules and developing regional connectivity between India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan & Myanmar. Private sectors should come together and work to strengthen the inland waterways coastal shipping opportunities. I am sure that the deliberation will evolve and new ideas to augment trade and help the shipping industry to grow."

In her keynote address, Dr Amita Prasad, IAS – Chairperson, Inland waterways Authority of India, said, “A few years back we had only 5 waterways, now we have 111 waterways, which is a huge jump. From 1972, there is a protocol between Indo-Bangladesh trade which is renewed every 5 years. We talk about strategy for the success which has been given. How do we integrate is one challenge and how to implement is another challenge? Monsoon plays a huge role, too much or too little rain hurts river and inland waterways.

There is so much of talk about cargos but we are ignoring passengers’ movements. If we look at the GDP on the rate of return on the particular river or waterways it will be useful to understand that passenger is as important as cargo movements. When the road is created, we don’t look at what type of traffic is moving on but in waterways, the focus is more on the size and type of cargo and not about the passenger. Bombay Port Trust is a prime example of moving from cargo to passenger.”

She also said, “We are requesting the government to provide some type of infrastructural and GST support. Waterways should not be looked at an alternate mode, it should be an important and inclusive one. Waterways can never be an alternative to road or railways. We have launched Earth Ganga a project for the development of inland waterways, under this project we are mapping two rivers. We are mapping what type of cargo is moving and what type of economic activity takes places in every50 km.”

The Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) in partnership with Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), has organised the conference for the stakeholders to interact on the augmenting trade potential through Inland Waterways and Coastal Shipping. The government officials, logistics service providers and key stakeholders connected to this conference to engage and exchange perspectives in the sector and share the latest developments, policy updates, market insights and business prospects.

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