Multimodal transport (also known as combined transport) is the transportation of goods under a single contract, but performed with at least two different modes of transport; the carrier is liable (in a legal sense) for the entire carriage, even though it is performed by several different modes of transport (by rail, sea and road, for example). The carrier does not have to possess all the means of transport, and in practice usually does not; the carriage is often performed by sub-carriers (referred to in legal language as “actual carriers”). The carrier responsible for the entire carriage is referred to as a multimodal transport operator, or MTO.Multimodal transport developed in connection with the “container revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s; as of 2011, containerized transports are by far the most important multimodal consignments. However, it is important to remember that multimodal transport is not equivalent to container transport; multimodal transport is feasible without any form of container. The MTO works on behalf of the supplier; it assures the supplier (and the buyer) that their goods will be effectively managed and supplied.
The launch of India’s first multi-modal terminal on the Ganga river
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated India’s first multi-modal terminal on the Ganga river in his parliamentary constituency here and received the country’s first container cargo transported on inland waterways from Kolkata.The first consignment containing food and beverage had set sail from Kolkata in the last week of October.The Prime Minister was accompanied by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Union Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari and BJP state president Mahendra Nath Pandey, who is also the MP of the neighbouring Chandauli Lok Sabha constituency.
When the Prime Minister received a Pepsico consignment from Kolkata to mark the inauguration of the ₹170-crore multi-modal terminal at Varanasi, it was not just a mere spectacle. After the passage of the National Waterways Act, 2016, under which 111 inland waterways were declared as national waterways, the Centre launched the Jal Marg Vikas (JMV) project to boost the carrying capacity of the Ganga, also called NW–1; the opening of the Varanasi ‘port’ marks a major advance in this ambitious project. The objective of the JMV project is to facilitate the movement of 1,500-2,000 tonne vessels along the Allahabad-Haldia stretch.
This is the first of the four multi-modal terminals being constructed on the National Waterway-1 (River Ganga) as part of the World Bank-aided ‘Jal Marg Vikas Project’ of the Inland Waterways Authority of India. The total estimated cost of the project is Rs 5,369.18 crore, which will be equally shared between the Government of India and the World Bank.Earlier, upon his arrival here, the Prime Minister was given a detailed presentation of the waterways and watched a short film on the viability of the waterways between Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Haldia in West Bengal.
According to an official statement, the Centre’s Jal Marg Vikas Project aims at developing the stretch of the river between Varanasi and Haldia for navigation of large vessels weighing up to 1,500 tonnes to 2,000 tonnes.Its objective is to promote inland waterways as a cheap and an environment-friendly means of transportation, especially for cargo movement. The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the project implementing agency.The project entails construction of three multi-modal terminals (Varanasi, Sahibganj and Haldia), two inter-modal terminals, five roll-on-roll-off (Ro-Ro) terminal pairs, new navigation lock at Farakka in West Bengal, assured depth dredging, integrated vessel repair and maintenance facility, differential global positioning system (DGPS), river information system (RIS), river training.
The project entails construction of three multi-modal terminals (Varanasi, Sahibganj and Haldia), two inter-modal terminals, five roll-on-roll-off (Ro-Ro) terminal pairs, new navigation lock at Farakka, West Bengal, assured depth dredging, integrated vessel repair and maintenance facility, differential global positioning system (DGPS), river information system (RIS) and river training.
This is the first of the four multi-modal terminals being constructed on the National Waterway-1 (river Ganga) as part of the World Bank-aided Jal Marg Vikas project of the Inland Waterways Authority of India.The total estimated cost of the project is Rs 5,369.18 crore, which will be equally shared between the Government of India and the World Bank. Earlier, upon his arrival here, the prime minister was given a detailed presentation of the waterways and watched a short film on the viability of the waterways between Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Haldia in West Bengal.
The Inland Angle
In june 2015, Gadhkari reclaimed that ‘Inland Waterways’ is economically most viable sector and, as such, it should be an integral part of infrastructure development in India. This was stated by Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, Shri Nitin Gadkari, in his inaugural address at the ‘National Conference on Inland Waterways: Issues, Options and Strategies’ in New Delhi yesterday.
He added that development of inland waterways would lower the logistics cost of production and, in turn, make the prices of the products more competitive in the global market.
Mentioning the growing enthusiasm among investors for the PPP model in road sector, Gadkari said that the possibility of applying this model in inland waterways sector is being studied. He further said that feasibility of joint ventures are also being explored as central and state governments have to work together to bring this sector in the forefront of infrastructure development. Gadkari also expressed the hope that the Bill for declaration of 101 waterways as National Waterways would have the passage in the forthcoming session of the Parliament.
The potential of inland waterways to emerge as a viable alternative to road transport is immense in a country where barely 3.5 per cent of trade is done through this route, against 47 per cent in China, 40 per cent in Europe, 44 per cent in Japan and Korea and 35 per cent in Bangladesh. While its fuel efficiency is unparalleled, particularly in comparison with road transport, it will also serve to keep major waterways in serviceable condition, since a minimum flow and depth would be required to keep large vessels afloat and moving. The costs to be incurred in dredging in particular should be viewed in the context of the larger savings and economic gains. Deforestation and uncertainties associated with land acquisition are minimised — even as livelihoods of communities living off the river need to be protected. In the case of NW–1, multi-modal terminals will be constructed at Sahibganj and Haldia, at an estimated cost of ₹280 crore and ₹517 crore, respectively, within about a year. The entire exercise of making the waterway serviceable is being carried out with World Bank support at an estimated cost of ₹4,200 crore over the next four or five years. Riverine trade along the Ganga may act as a boost for the economies of the eastern region, where road transportation is inefficient. A multi-modal approach will address chronic logistics issues, inviting investment into regions considered uncongenial for business. Apart from the Ganga, the Brahmaputra, West Coast Canal (in Kerala) Mandovi, Zuari and Sunderbans are operational waterways. Some of the waterways being developed at present are the Kakinada-Puducherry canal, and the Barak, Gandhak, Kosi and Ghaghra rivers. The annual profits of the 12 major ports, estimated at ₹7,000 crore, will be channelised to develop an extensive inland waterways system. The major ports will develop special purpose vehicles to this end.
As acquisition of land for national and State highways becomes scarce and the cost of construction of roads, flyovers and bridges goes up, the government is now exploring using water as a means of public transportation.
With the enactment of the National Waterways Act, 2016, the total number of national waterways is now 111. But providing infrastructure such as jetties, terminals, and navigational channels continues to pose a challenge. Inland waterways in India consist of the Ganges (Ganga)–Bhagirathi–Hooghly rivers, the Brahmaputra, the Barak river, the rivers in Goa, the backwaters in Kerala, inland waters in Mumbai and the deltaic regions of the Godavari – Krishna rivers.
Freight transportation by waterways is highly under-utilized in India compared to other large countries and geographic areas like the United States, China and the European Union. The total cargo moved (in tonne kilometres) by the inland waterway was just 0.1% of the total inland traffic in India, compared to the 21% figure for United States. Cargo transportation in an organised manner is confined to a few waterways in Goa, West Bengal, Assam and Kerala.
Water transportation is receiving significant attention in recent times since logistics cost in India is one of the highest among major countries – it is 18% in India versus 8-10% in China and 10-12% in European Union. While inland waterways are recognised as a fuel efficient, cost effective and environment friendly mode of transport, it has received lesser investment as compared to roads and railways. Since inland waterways are lagging behind other modes of transport the central government has evolved a policy for integrated development of inland waterways.
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