Government aims to develop eco-friendly, economical inland waterways

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Mumbai, April 15, 2016: The Indian government is looking at massive port development aimed at enhancing ship movement, cargo transportation and tourism, while the inland waters sector will soon undergo a paradigm shift and turn-around the Indian maritime sector, said Piyush Goyal Minister of State Independent-Charge for Coal, Power and New & Renewable Energy.

“India is ready to take the first step towards a giant leap in maritime sector. It will ensure high speed of transportation on a very large scale and skill development at the same time. Earlier there were only four national waterways, those were underutilised. We have increased (identified new waterways) them to 106,” said Goyal.

Goyal delivered the keynote address at Indian Water Transportation, Coastal Shipping, at the ongoing Maritime India Summit 2016, here. “Operation cost decides the fate of any project. Considering this aspect, the government has carefully worked out a cost-effective model to help shipping and inland waterways. The most significant advantage of waterways is that they are eco-friendly. This will help reducing carbon footprint of the country,” he said.

Eco-friendly, yet cost effective mode will definitely strengthen India’s case at the global level and the projected growth will create around 10 million jobs, he said. “With a massive young manpower, eager to improve life, India is the only option for the world for investment,” Goyal added.

Government is not bothered by inconvenient truth, we have devised convenient measures. “Shipping and inland waterways will prove to be the game changer in years to come. Coal transport can be greatly benefited by inland waterways. Currently 70 million tons of coal is transported by the sea route. This can go up manifold if we have inland waterways,” he said.

According to Goyal, the time was perfect to buy ships and strengthen Indian shipping sector as ships are available at throw away prices. Government is willing to get into long-term partnerships with local as well as foreign players to promote shipping industry, he said.

Goyal put forward an idea of setting up a dedicated fund of around $250 billion to assist those willing to invest in India. He stressed on the need of rivers inter-linking to boost inland waterways. “India can reap benefits of eco-friendly and cost effective nature of waterways. We are open for global investment and experts to give impetus to the growth of inland water transport and shipping,” Goyal said.

He also said that considering India’s long coast and large number of rivers, the central government has decided to support various projects which would transform inland waterways and shipping sector of India.

Vishwapati Trivedi, Chairman, National Shipping Board, said, “Government has taken a focused approach towards water transport and coastal shipping, the rapidly emerging sectors. Various policy decisions taken over the last two years have been a shot in arm for the sector.”

Flemming Jakob, Secretary General, Danish Maritime Forum opined that India always had a huge potential to develop waterways and shipping. “It is unfortunate that the sector had been neglected for so many decades. It is high time India exploited its 1400 km navigable waterways and compete with the rest of the world,” Jakob said.

There is a huge gap between India and China in terms of water transport. “India can bridge the gap soon if a positive approach is adopted for the development of the sector,” he said. Chris Kornet, CEO of The Netherlands based Concordia Group has surveyed Hooghly river to develop water transport. “Smaller and lighter vessels with state of the art navigation system can be highly useful in Indian waterways. My company is willing to make such vessels in India,” Kornet said.

He also said that India should be proud of the waterways, which are a matter of envy for Europe. The blue roads, if used strategically, can make India a leader in maritime sector, he added.

Amitabh Verma, Chairman, of Inland Waterways Authority of India elaborated on functioning of the authorities. “The government’s changed focus on the maritime sector, is all set to kick start development in a big way. As a part of the vision, government has entered into automatically renewable agreement for Bangladesh Protocol Route and the Indian Vessels Act, 1917 is being rewritten to bring in ease of doing business. (ENDS)