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India on cusp of waterways revolution; 4% cut in logistics cost to lift exports by 30%: Nitin Gadkari

Jan 10 (AZINS) Waterways transport in India is all set for a revolution and has potential to bring down logistics cost by 4 per cent that will propel exports by 30 per cent, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said Thursday kicking off PSU Concor's maiden containers voyage through coastal shipping.

The shipping and road transport minister said many firsts in the country were lined up as massive works were underway on projects for turning 11 rivers into waterways besides pilot run of aeroboats on Ganga on January 26.

Launching Container Corporation of India's (Concor) first-ever container transport through coastal shipping from Kandla to Tuticorin port via Mangalore and Cochin through video conferencing here, Gadkari recalled how people used to laugh at his dream of developing waterways and running cargo ships on the river Ganga.

"Now we have paved the way for exports to Bangladesh and Myanmar through Varanasi...If we reduce our logistics cost by just 4 per cent then our exports will boost by 25-30 per cent...We are one of the fastest growing economies and we have the potential to do it," Gadkari, who is also the water resources minister, said.

"The share of coastal shipping (in the movement of cargo) in China is 24 per cent, Germany 11 per cent and in the USA it is 9 per cent but in India, it is barely 4.5 to 5 per cent...Massive works are underway to develop waterways which many thoughts was a dream only. Of the 111 rivers to be converted into waterways, projects are underway on 11," Gadkari said.

He said 80 lakh tonne of cargo was transported through the Ganga this year which was going to swell to 280 lakh tonne as a draft of 3 meters has been maintained on Varanasi to Haldia stretch of 1,680 km.

On the request of the UP government, the Centre is maintaining 1 metre draft from Allahabad to Varanasi and barges are designed with such techniques that they can carry 3,500 tonnes of cargo each in place of 2,000 tonnes at present.

Coastal shipping is developed in such a fashion that it can carry all kinds of cargo - automobile, fertiliser, cement, steel, foodgrain, sugar, the minister said.

"Besides, four aertoboats using Russian technology are ready for a pilot run on Ganga on January 26. These can run on water, mangrove and land," he said and added that easing of policies has resulted in arresting 30 per cent of the Colombo bound containers...These all are historical steps," he said.

Concor, a PSU under the Ministry of Railways, which saw the launch of its maiden container transport through coastal shipping said foray into the coastal move is aimed at strengthening the infrastructure along the west coast to start with and further extend to the east coast.

The minister said the move is significant as water transport is much cheaper in comparison of transport through rail and road.

"Container shipping operations envisage deployment of two vessels each of 22,000 DWT (deadweight tonnage) capable of carrying about 700 containers (twenty-foot equivalent units). There will be weekly service from Kandla Port via Mangalore, Cochin and Tuticorin," Concor said.

The business potential includes transportation of foodgrains from FCI; steel from RINL, Tata, Posco and SAIL; cement from Dalmia Bharat, Ultratech, Ambuja and JSW; automobiles from Ashok Leyland, Hyundai, Renault and Nissan besides cotton, fertiliser, sugar, soda ash, groundnut etc.

The PSU estimated that even if 10 per cent of the business volume is captured through coastal, it would be around 2,700 TEUs per month.

In the first phase, with West Coast operation, Concor is expecting a million tonnes of cargo per annum besides another million tonnes by starting East Coast operations.

"After the consolidation of Concor's position in the western sector, Concor proposes to further expand the services in the eastern sector also duly connecting ports like Kattupalli, Vishakhapatnam, Gangavaram, Krishnapatnam, Paradip and Haldia with Tuticorin as a hub for east and west coasts," it said.

Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, who was also present on the occasion, said that with the launch of container movement through coastal shipping, new records were being set.

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