In line with the shipping ministry’s increased focus on transportation via coastal shipping and national waterways (NWs), the country witnessed a notable jump in freight transport and cargo movement through such modes between FY14 and FY16. The government data show that during the period, the total freight through coastal shipping from all ports, including major and minor, rose 10.9 per cent from 161.36 million tonnes (mt) to 178.92 mt. While the freight transport from major ports increased 9.2 per cent to 125.26 mt, that from minor ports jumped 14.9 per cent to 53.66 mt.
Similarly, cargo movement through NWs rose more than 32 per cent from 32.26 mt in 2013-14 to 42.66 mt in 2015-16.
While the potential is huge, the share of coastal shipping and inland water transport stands very low, according to a report prepared by Sub-Group VIII (Inland Water Transport) of the Working Group on Ports and Shipping under the National Transport Development Policy Committee (NTDPC). While the proportionate share of cargo transportation through coastal shipping stood at six per cent, that through inland water transport accounted for only 0.4 per cent. While roads contributed a majority of 60 per cent, the share of railways stood at 25 per cent.
Promoting waterways as a medium of transport, the Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, Nitin Gadkari, recently called for running a ferry service between Kerala and Tamil Nadu and committed Rs 200 crore to form a Water Transport Corporation in cooperation with the Tamil Nadu government to run the ferry service from Thiruvananthapuram to Kanyakumari, and to Chennai. He has maintained that development of river transport is the top priority of the government. He has also said that the ministry will provide subsidy for creating infrastructure and will also make the investment.
In the recent past, the government has taken several steps for promotion of transportation through coastal shipping and national waterways. These include:
* Moderating the manning and technical requirements for vessels operating within Indian territorial waters through a River Sea Vessel notification.
* Declaring the inland vessel limits for facilitating coastal trade operations.
* Issuing coastal shipping rules for coastal vessels operating within 20 miles off the coast
* Exempting Customs and Central Excise duty on bunker fuels (IFO 180 and IFO 380 CST) by Indian flagged coastal container vessels.
* Cabotage relaxation for specialised vessel and increase in discount by major port in port charges from 40 per cent to 80 per cent for two years, with effect from September 2, 2016.
* The government declared 111 NWs, which includes five NWs declared earlier under the National Waterways Act 2016.
* NW-1, NW– 2 and NW-3 have been developed with fairway, navigational aids, jetties and terminals with mechanised equipment handling facilities for loading and unloading of cargo. These waterways are operational and vessels are plying on these NWs.
* Implementing the Jal Marg Vikas project to augment capacity of NW-1 with the technical and financial support of the World Bank.
* Detailed project report for development of Kosi (NW-58), Gandak (NW-37), Ghaghra (NW-40), Mandovi (NW -68), Zuari (NW -111), and Cumberjua (NW-27) have been prepared.