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Editorial: Shipping Minister On a Mission to Create More Jobs From Coastal Shipping

Port Wings, 17 July 2019:

Mansukh L Mandaviya, Minister of State (I/C) for Shipping, is a politician known for riding his bicycle to attend Parliament proceedings to create awareness on environmental issues.

With giving more emphasis on coastal shipping and more usage of inland waterways for moving cargo, the Minister is now on a mission. He is all set to strategize his employment-centric agenda for the next five years.

To support the growth, the Government has relaxed Cabotage under section 406 & 407 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, for the coastal movement of Agriculture, horticulture, fisheries and animal husbandry commodities.

According to the Minister, the relaxation has given wider geographical spread for distribution of fertilizers for the benefit of farming community. Furthermore, in order to promote coastal shipping, the Ministry of Shipping, in exercise of power vested in the Central Government vide Section 407(3) of the Merchant Shipping Act, had relaxed cabotage and allowed foreign flag ships to engage in the coastal trade of India without obtaining licence from Directorate General of Shipping for coastal movement of specialized vessels such as RO-RO, RO-PAX, Hybrid Ro-Ro, Pure car carriers, pure car and truck carriers, LNG vessels and over-dimensional cargo or project cargo vide order dated 2nd September, 2015.

The Minister, while interactive with media, opined that the coastal transportation will be very economical in comparison to surface transport and the ministry would soon review the ‘obstructive’ norms and make it more seamless.

On 12 July 2019, the Minister digitally flagged-off a ship of the Inland Waterways Authority of India, carrying stone from Bhutan to be delivered in Bangladesh. The ship – MV AAI – has set sail from Dhubri in Assam and will travel to Narayanganj in Bangladesh, over river Brahmaputra and the Indo Bangladesh Protocol Route. This is the first time an Indian waterway is being used as a channel for transport of cargo between two countries, using India for transit.

The stone aggregates were transported by trucks from Phuentsholing in Bhutan which is 160 KMs from IWAI’s Dhubri jetty in Assam. Till now, Bhutan has been exporting significant quantity of stone aggregates to Bangladesh through the land route. The ship is carrying 1000 MT of stones – 70 trucks would be required to transport the same cargo by road.

According to the Shipping Ministry, the development is a historic one, taking ahead the vision of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to promote cargo transportation through inland waterways. The move will be beneficial to India as well as Bhutan and Bangladesh, and strengthen relations between the neighbouring countries.

It may be noted that transport of cargo through this route will cut short travel time by 8 to 10 days, and reduce transportation cost by 30%, bringing down logistics costs. It will also be a more environment friendly mode of transport. Further, it will also open up an alternate route to our  North Eastern states, making it easier and cheaper to reach goods to these places from other parts of the country.

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