India must develop internal water transport

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FICCI organized a very successful conference to discuss various methods for strengthening and creating a sustainable maritime industry. When we talk about maritime industry, we talk of in integrated approach to operate the Internal Water Transport (IWT) and coastal shipping in a very amicable manner. Here, inter state co-operation is an absolute must if the cargo has to be carried economically through the inland waterways.

The major ports have to shed a bureaucratic approach and hold the port trust board meetings punctually and with full quorum. They have to facilitate the berthing and operation of coastal cargo carrying vessels by making the berth available promptly and by reducing the berth charges and pilotage charges. The masters of these vessels must be trained by the pilots so that they may carefully berth their vessels on their own without incurring the cost of the pilot.

The ports must make their cargo handling cranes very efficient. The port craft have to be modern with excellent maneuvering capability and the crew of the tugs must shed their lethargic attitude which they have been carrying thus far. The port chairman and the harbor master must remain strict. Mundra, Kandla, Dhamra, Tuticorin, Vizag, JNPT, Paradip have become very efficient ports.

Indian shipping companies have not developed entrepreneurial attitude. Government must come down heavily on them asking them to improve their efficiency. Shipping Corporation of India must have developed immensely by now but their work culture is very poor and they lack fervor. Employees merely want to enjoy pay and perks. The former chairman of SCI has found employment in a private firm. IWT cargo profile has to improve by actively engaging the shippers.

FICCI should become a cargo tracking body. Where is the cargo, how do I move it cheaply through the rivers? The chartering departments of the Shipping companies must be activated to find cargo e.g. cargo from Yangon to India etc; Coal must be moved by Indian ships. Why coastal ships should look like rust buckets?
Make sure that the classification societies do not charge hefty fees for survey of coastal and inland vessels. The functioning of the IRS must be overseen, but who will do it? Why India doesn’t own a decent and modern passenger ship after M.V. Chidambaram.
These are the aspects that the ministry of shipping must work on with direct involvement.

The technical officers of DGS and SCI and other Indian companies must meet once in a month and inform the public what they discussed, what was planned and what has been achieved. Passengers have to travel from one city to the other by an inland vessel. Chillies, onion, potato, fishes of various varieties, fruits and all such consumables have to move from one town to the other supervised by local tahsildar, police officer and agricultural scientists. India transports only 7% of its domestic cargo by coastal shipping, or so-called short-sea shipping, while the European Union transports 42%, China 43% and the US 15%. Inland water transport, or IWT, accounts for less than a 1% share of goods transported within India through various modes such as rail, road and water, much less than other nations that are similarly endowed. India should improve its inland water network.