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'Use of waterways as alternate transport will have environmental benefits'

Use of waterways as alternate transport will have environmental benefits

Kolkata: To reduce the pressure of pollution, congestion and accidents on roads, shifting to waterways as an alternative transport is the need of the hour. There are huge environmental benefits in using waterways, said Pravir Pandey, chairman, Inland Waterways Authority of India, Ministry of Shipping.

He was addressing the 8th Annual Shipping Conclave 'Logistics in India-The Way Ahead,' organised by the Bengal Chamber in Kolkata on Friday.

Waterways transport is not consumptive and brings in reliability and stability. The myth that transportation cannot happen in November-December, has been broken recently. The focus of the Ministry has been to explore methanol as a marine fuel. NITI Aayog is piloting this movement and Cochin Shipyards is designing three workboards in Kolkata to experiment the viability of the use of methanol.

Also, 6 cargo vessels are being designed with methanol engines. By January 2019, retrofitting is expected to start. If methanol becomes successful, it will bring down logistics costs substantially as it's only Rs 26/litre.

Amitabha Sengupta, joint secretary, Transport department, said with such a long waterway in the state, there is enough scope of logistics to grow and flourish. "The focus should be to shift to multi-modal activity with introduction of logistic warehousing points, cold storages and RORO points. The Transport department of Bengal is infusing Rs 1,000 crore in developing RORO vessels and backend facilities like terminals and workshops. RFID codes enable trucks to move seamlessly and reduce overall time," he said.

Meanwhile Vinit Kumar, chairman, Kolkata Port Trust, said: "Logistics is an important element of the cost of the entire industrial chain. It's 14-16% in India, whereas in developed nations it is 6-7%. There are various companies whose business model is centered on logistics like Walmart. Its success is because its USP is logistics. Kolkata is the gateway to the eastern hinterland. The growth rate of Haldia has been 18% and Kolkata port is in 3rd position in the country with 10%. In Kolkata, developing and mechanising one more berth is underway. In two months, there will be an additional berth no.3. Also, roadways have been improved than before and the plan to start RORO services will help the inland waterway system and reduce load from the roadways."

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