The Minister of State for Shipping (I/C) and Chemicals and Fertilisers, Mr Mansukh Mandaviya, in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, informed that 111 National Waterways are being developed in a phased manner for the purpose of shipping and navigation. He highlighted that cargo transportation on waterways rose to 72.31 million tonnes (mt) in 2018-19, from 55.20 mt in 2016-17 and 55.03 mt in 2017-18.
The Minister further informed the House that various initiatives have been taken by the government to increase the use of inland waterways and coastal shipping for greater cargo shipment. These include providing assured depth of water in the channels, navigation aids like GPS and River Information System, terminals at regular intervals, facilities for mechanised handling of cargo, etc.
A minimum 40 per cent discount and priority in berthing is being given to coastal vessels at Major Ports. The Ministry of Fertilisers and the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade have agreed to provide subsidy for transportation of fertilisers as well as raw materials and finished goods for new industrial units in the North-East region through the IWT mode. Licencing relaxations have been done under Section 406 and 407 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 for fertilisers, agricultural products, fisheries, horticultural and animal husbandry products, empty containers and containers being transhipped from another Indian port, special vessels such as RoRo, RoPax, and project cargo/ODC.
Allowing carriage of coastal containers through the territorial waters of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar and streamlining of the mechanism for freight subsidy reimbursement for fertilisers are other steps taken in this direction, informed a release.