India has about 14,500 km of navigable waterways comprising of rivers, canals, backwaters, creeks and moves about 55 million tonnes of cargo annually by Inland Water Transport (IWT)..
The inland waterway transport is considered to be an environmentally friendly mode of transport capable of carrying commercial cargo and passengers and is controlled by The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) which came into existence on 27th October 1986 for development and regulation of inland waterways for shipping and navigation..
As per an IWAI official, they have set a target of achieving 120 million tonnes of cargo movement per annum in the next 5 years which will take them above the 2% modal share of the total transport mix..
In what was seen as a landmark moment in the history of shipping in India last year, PepsiCo moved 16 containers on the MV RN Tagore (for Rabindranath Tagore) from Kolkata to Varanasi on river Ganga using the National Waterway-1..
This was followed by Concor’s (Container Corporation of India Ltd,.) announcement that they are entering the coastal shipping market in India with Concor kicking off their coastal shipping operation from Kandla to Tuticorin via Mangalore and Cochin with their first sailing on Thursday the 10th January 2019..
This movement of cargo using the inland waterways has since extended from domestic to foreign trade..
On the 30th June 2020, the barge “MV Pruthvi” left Haldia Docks on its maiden voyage to Dhaka on the Indo Bangladesh Protocol Route (IBPR) carrying 45 TEUs of sponge iron..
This first-ever containerised cargo from India to Bangladesh using the Inland Waterways reached Pangaon International Container Terminal, Dhaka on the 12th of July 2020..
This movement was organised by Adani Logistics Limited in association with Five Star Logistics Private Limited for the carriage of cargo belonging to Rashmi Cement and Orissa Metaliks..
The India-Bangladesh Protocol on Inland Water Trade and Transit (PIWTT) was signed in 1972 to allow the free movement of goods between India and Bangladesh using specified routes connecting West Bengal, Assam and Tripura with Bangladesh..
In recent years, the Government of India has strongly supported the development and commercialization of Inland Waterways in India with the Ministry of Shipping recently waiving the waterway usage charges for an initial period of three years with immediate effect, to promote the inland waterways as a supplementary, eco-friendly and cheaper mode of cargo transport..
Announcing the waiver of the charges, the Union Minister of State for shipping, Mr.Mansukh Mandaviya said
Currently only 2 percent of total cargo traffic moves through waterways. The decision of waiving waterway charges will attract the industries to use the national waterways for their logistical needs. As the mode of transport is eco-friendly and cheaper, it will not only reduce the burden on other transport modes but also promote the ease of doing business.
The success of this landmark export cargo movement between India and Bangladesh has provided importers and exporters of India and Bangladesh a viable alternative to roadways and railways which are heavily congested..
Majority of the exports and imports between West Bengal region to Bangladesh is currently moving via Petrapole (India) and Benapole (Bangladesh) corridor with Petrapole being one of the largest land-based Customs Station in Asia handling a trade of more than US$ 2.5 billion..
Commenting on the achievement, Capt. Anil Kishore Singh, CEO of Inland Waterways of Adani Logistics said
Since last year, our team is working on offering commercially viable logistics solutions using Inland Waterways. Previously, we have successfully completed the domestic containerized movement between Haldia – Patna on NW1 and Haldia – Guwahati on NW2 (using IBPR).
The success of containerized movement from Haldia to Guwahati on NW2 (using IBPR) has generated keen interest with the importers/ exporters of both India and Bangladesh to extend its usage for EXIM cargo movement. One vessel movement is equivalent to 64 or more trucks.
Thus Inland Waterways provides a competitive alternative to current road based movement of goods through Petrapole ICP. Containerized movement of sponge iron is a safer alternative as compared to carrying the cargo in bulk/break bulk which has also been appreciated by industry.
Petrapole is said to handle between 500-550 trucks from India and about 100-150 trucks from Bangladesh every day.. But due to the congestion and delays, customers have been looking for viable transportation options to handle several bulk commodities such as Fly Ash, Stone Aggregates, and also project cargoes..
Welcoming this development, Ms. Riva Ganguly Das, High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh said
India and Bangladesh had recently signed the 2nd Addendum to Protocol on Inland Water Trade and Transit on 20th May 2020 which included two new routes, five new Ports of Call and two extended Ports of Call including Summit Alliance Port Limited (SAPL), Mukhtarpur in Bangladesh.
Connectivity provided by the existing and the newly added protocol routes provides excellent opportunity for expansion of our bilateral trade besides which, in the present Covid-19 scenario it provides economical, faster and safer mode of transport for business communities of both the countries and will also have environmental benefits for the region.
By strengthening the PIWTT, both India and Bangladesh are creating a vision for future trade between the two countries as well as to the North Eastern States..
This is an overall good development for all concerned and good luck to both countries..