Bharat is particularly favoured by a long coast line. Ministry of Shipping has now mooted the Sagarmala Project to promote port based development that will enhance short sea and coastal shipping as well as inland water transport for coastal shipping at major ports.
Efficient, economical and reliable transportation of freight is highly important for economic development. We need to bring in raw materials, machines and equipment to the factories and take away the manufactured items from there to the market and from there on to the consumers. In a rapidly developing economy all these movements have also to be rapid. Our merchandise or exim trade is expected to increase from 45 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at present to 70-75 per cent. It is therefore, important that we develop our water transport accordingly.
Manufacturing by assembly line requires the delivery to and from the factories to be just in time so as to avoid unnecessary storage and wastage. Further, to be competitive it has also to be economical in terms of fuel consumption and other costs. The cheapest mode of transport is by water. There is hardly any comparison cost wise between the shipping and air transport of cargo. As compared to rail and road also, transport of goods by water is much cheaper—30 per cent cheaper as compared to rail and 50 per cent as compared to road transport. Per ton kilometre cost by coastal and inland waterways is just Rs 0.75 as compared to Rs 1.18 by rail and Rs 1.51 by road. Its fuel efficiency in ton km/litre is 105 as compared to 85 and 24 by the other two modes, respectively. No wonder therefore, that it accounts for 30 per cent of total goods traffic in China which at 5.3 trillion ton kilometre is four times of ours by volume. Add to that, the cost of importing crude oil for 80 per cent of our needs. We can effect considerable savings by encouraging coastal shipping and inland water transport.
Bharat has seas on three sides of the Peninsula with the mainland coastline of 5,400km. Our islands have coast extending over more than 2,100km. We have navigable – in which fully loaded vessels with carrying capacity of 50 tonnes can normally navigate, inland waterways of more than 14,500km. Mechanical crafts can ply in 5,200km of rivers and 4,000km of canals aside from 13 major ports, we also have 200 non major i.e. minor and intermediate ports. But the volume of coastal traffic is just 0.7 million DWT.
At present our inland water transport is rudimentary—just 0.1 per cent —as compared to 21 per cent in the USA. We have six inland waterways. The first National Waterway (NW), Haldia-Allahabad, was developed in 1986. It is also the longest and the most used. It is 1,620km long but the depth which is 3 metres up to Patna gets reduced to 1.5 m at Varanasi making it difficult to navigate further to Allahabad. NW-2 Sadia-Dhubri is 811km long waterway in Assam developed in 1988. 205km long NW-3 Kollam–Kottapuram Udyogmanadal in Kerala was developed in 1993.
1,095 kms long NW-4 connecting Wazirabad and Vijaywada in Andhra Pradesh with Kakinada in Tamil Nadu and Puduchhery and 622 kms long NW-5 in Odisha connecting Talcher with Paradip Port were developed in 2008. The sixth developed only in 2013 on Barak River connecting Lakhipur with Banga in Assam is 121km long. Government is bringing a Bill before the Parliament to approve waterways in 101 rivers and prepare Detailed Planning Reports (DPR) for 50 of them. 5 NWs are being operationalised for cargo movement which is proposed to be quadrupled in 5 years. NW-1 is being made navigable up to Allahabad.
We have about 200 notified non major ports but only 69 of them are reported to be handling cargo. Gujarat with 1/6 of our coastline has 17 of these which handle 70-75 of total coastal trade of the country—336 million tons last year. Andhra Pradesh is second with about 18 per cent of the total. One-third of the total cargo each is accounted for by POL and coal. There are 29 ongoing private sector/captive/joint venture projects on the non-major Ports. 29 more are being formulated.
Ministry of shipping, which had earlier prepared a 2010-20 Maritime Agenda for shipping, has now mooted the Sagarmala Project to promote port based development. It proposes to develop a perspective plan for the entire coastline and identify coastal economic zones, develop master plan for the same synchronising them with the industrial corridors and clusters, SEZs, dedicated freight corridors and NHDP so as to create strong well connected multi-modal industrial urban hubs. These hubs will promote short sea and coastal shipping as well as inland water transport for coastal shipping at major ports. Two non-major ports are being developed in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. Coastal shipping capacity is to be doubled in 5 years.
Several steps have been initiated to support coastal shipping by addressing the long standing demands of associations such as providing separate berths and green channel for it at the major port as also to waive the custom and excise duties on bunker fuel used by Bharatiya ships for transhipment of Exim cargo and empty containers. A scheme is also being formulated to encourage modal shift from rail and road to coastal shipping and IWT.
Bharat is particularly favoured by a long coast line along its peninsula jutting out into Arabian Sea on the one side, Bay of Bengal on the other and Indian Ocean down below. Gujarat has already shown the way how with 17 non major ports it can handle 336 million tons of cargo. We have 52 more such non major ports along the rest of the coast line. By developing them with modern facilities we may not find it difficult to achieve the target of 1,280 mts envisaged in the Maritime Agenda for 2020.
JP Dubey(The writer is a senior columnist and having expertise on developmental issues)