Cargo ship sails from Patna to Pandu, ushering in a new era of logistics for Assam

Union Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways and AYUSH, Sarbananda Sonowal flagged out a barge MV Lal Bahadur Shastri from Patna to Guwahati on Saturday. The ship, which started its journey from Patna, is carrying 200 tons of grain towards Pandu in Guwahati and will travel via Bangladesh to reach the destination in early March 2022.

The Minister also laid the foundation stone for the construction of the Kalughat Intermodal Terminal at Saran in Bihar on the National Waterway – 1 (Ganga River).

The ship starts its journey on National Waterway-1 (River Ganges) through Bhagalpur, Manihari, Sahibganj, Farakka, Tribeni, Kolkata, Haldia, Hemnagar; The Indo Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route through Khulna, Narayanganj, Sirajganj, Chilmari and the National Waterway-2 through Dhubri and Jogighopa with a length of 2,350 km.

The ship will take around 25 days for the entire journey and is expected to reach Pandu in Guwahati in early March.

This historic feat will usher in a new era of growth for all states of Northeast India, a government statement said.

The waterways will cut through the landlocked access that has long crippled development in the region. The waterways not only remove this geographical obstacle in the path of progress in the region, but also provide economical, fast and convenient transportation for the region’s businesses and people.

In line with the Prime Minister’s “Act East” policy, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW) has picked up several infrastructure projects on the National Waterway-1, Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route and NW2 by the Inland Waterways Authority of India ( IWAI).These steps will improve the connection with the North Eastern Region (NER) through waterways.The Government has undertaken the ambitious Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) with an investment of approximately Rs. 4600 crore for the capacity expansion of India’s NW-1 (River Ganga) for the safe and sustainable movement of ships up to 2000 tons.

Commenting on the milestone, Sonowal said, “This is a historic moment for the entire Northeast as we set out to take advantage of the smoothest cargo transportation through Brahmaputra. This is not just a journey from Patna to Pandu, but a journey of unfulfilled desires and aspirations to reach a wider world via waterways. The opportunities for the people of Assam and the North East are enormous.”

The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) aims to operate regular scheduled services on these routes. The Protocol on Inland Waterways Transit and Trade (PIWTT) between India and Bangladesh allows for mutually beneficial arrangements on the use of their waterways for the movement of goods between the two countries by ships of either country.

National Waterway-1 (River Ganga) is connected to National Waterway-2 (River Brahmaputra) and National Waterway-16 (River Barak) via Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) routes. To improve navigability, two sections of IBP routes i.e. Sirajganj-Daikhowa and Ashuganj-Zakiganj are also being developed at a cost of Rs. 305.84 crores on an 80:20 share basis (80% borne by India and 20% by Bangladesh). The development of these sections is expected to allow seamless navigation to NER via the IBP route. The contracts for the dredging work on the two sections to provide and maintain the required depth are in progress for a period of seven years (from 2019 to 2026).

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