The Centre will start the first container movement on the Brahmaputra (National Waterway 2) on Monday to give a push to inland waterways.
A landmark container cargo consignment will sail on the route from Haldia dock complex (HDC) to the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) terminal at Pandu here.
Secretary (shipping) Gopal Krishna will flag off the inland vessel MV Maheshwari, carrying 53 containers of petrochemicals, edible oil and beverages. The 12-15 days’ voyage will be an integrated movement via National Waterway 1 (the Ganga), NW 97 (Sunderbans), Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route and NW 2 (the Brahmaputra). It will reach Pandu between November 20 and 25.
Two other vessels — MV Aai and MV Beki — will carry coal for Star Cement plant at Sonapur, while MV Maheswari will carry containers of polymer granules, beverages and mineral water. The route will be Haldia, Hemnagar (Bangladesh border), Khulna, Chandpur, Bahadurbad, Sirajganj, Chilmari, Dhubri and Pandu.
“This is the first container cargo movement on this IWT route. The 1,425km journey is expected to establish the technical and commercial viability of the IWT mode using multiple waterways, while a series of pilot movements are planned on the stretch. The latest IWT movement is aimed at providing a fillip to the Northeast’s industrial development by opening up an alternate route for transportation of raw material and finished goods,” a senior Inland Waterways Authority of India official said.
The cargo movement on the Brahmaputra in 2014-15 was 0.52 million metric tonnes, 0.6MMT in 15-16, 0.61MMT in 16-17, 0.56MMT in 17-18, 0.5MMT in 18-19 and 0.1MMT (till June 2019). The cargo carried on the Brahmaputra till now was bamboo products, cement, building material, fertilisers, food grains, milk and other essential commodities.
The Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade between India and Bangladesh allows mutually beneficial arrangement for the use of their waterways for movement of goods by vessels of both countries. The IBP route extends from Calcutta on NW 1 to Silghat (Assam) on NW 2 (the Brahmaputra) and Karimganj on NW 16 (the Barak). Both countries have taken major steps to enhance utilisation of waterways recently, which include agreement on declaration of additional ports of call under the protocol at Kolaghat, Dhulian, Maia, Sonamura in India, and Chilmari, Rajshahi, Sultanganj and Daukhandi in Bangladesh.
The official said in addition, a standard operating protocol to facilitate movement of goods to and from India through Chittagong and Mongla ports in Bangladesh has been signed by the two countries on October 5 and the proximity of these ports will reduce logistics cost and improve trade competitiveness of the northeastern states.