09 Dec 2019  |   05:50am IST

Inland waterways viable logistics option for Goa, say stakeholders

At a recent seminar on logistics by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the discussion revolved around the plight of the barge owners post the mining ban in Goa. The Inland Waterways Authority of India and also Sagarmala Development Company along with the Government of Goa are looking at how rivers in Goa can be used for logistics. VIKANT SAHAY spoke to stakeholders to know how Goa can be benefit
Inland waterways viable logistics option for Goa, say stakeholders


With land scarce and the floating population high, Goa needs to ensure that its logistic systems are placed correctly. The State has plenty of rivers which can be used as inland waterways. It is economic too. According to the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), operational cost per tonne per kilometre through inland waterways is Rs 1.06 as compared to Rs 1.41 by rail and Rs 2.28 by road. The total cost of inland navigation, after accounting for accidents, congestion, noise, emissions, air pollution and other environmental impacts is estimated to be one-seventh of that of road transport.

Gradually, India too, is moving towards waterway transportation. In FY 2017-18 the cargo traffic on national waterways registered 55.01 million tonnes but in FY 2018-19 the figure went up by 31 per cent registering 72.31 million tonnes. 

President of the Goa Barge Owners’ Association, William D’Costa said, “I think our barge industry has been decimated. I am ready to go to any extent, anywhere and to whoever offers us some assistance as we have to survive. In 2001 with China taking our iron-ore, the barge industry did flourish and during 2010-11 we carried 50 million tonnes. It was the golden era for us. From 110 barges we went up to over 300 barges and the number of trucks went up from 5000 to over 25,000.  But overnight we were finished and today you can see the reality and the barges are rotting alongside the rivers.”

He was speaking at the Confederation of Indian Industry, Goa Chapter which recently held a one-day seminar on logistics. 

Dr Amita Prasad said, “There are certain issues that have been raised during the CII seminar on logistics. The Goa Barge Owners’ Association wants certain support on repairs of the barges. In fact they had more than 300 barges in 2012 and now it has depleted to 80. We told them that we will look into it. In fact it was examined earlier also but was not found feasible but we will look into it again. Sagarmala has also raised that their issues on the nine jetties which they have to construct in Goa. They have requested us for certain rationalisation of taxes which can be taken up by the GST Council. From our end we have requested Mouvin Godinho, the minister in-charge of GST from Goa, to take this up. We will also take this up from our end.”

Dr Prasad informed that in fact we have six national waterways in the State out of which three are very important ones. We look after are inland waterways which means we are only looking after river based waterways but as per the Sagarmala and Ministry of Shipping initiatives. It is a port-led development which Sagarmala is doing. Now there is an inter-connected route between the rivers and their tributaries and when we look into this, we have only 181 kilometres of national waterways here in Goa and it is not very old data as it was notified in 2016. 

National Waterways will mean that Government of India will aid in river development that is silt clearing or building of navigational channels and its maintenance. “We have already committed Rs 22 crore for the three rivers in Goa. We also do jetty development. In fact, we can make a jetty or even a private person can make a jetty under certain conditions which we have specified. However, at present we have no policy and we are looking to frame that policy but we are contemplating allowing people to construct a jetty provided that person obtains a no objection certificate from us after presenting their technical inputs. However, our mode of transport is not competitive but complimentary to other modes of transportation,” added the chairperson of IWAI. 

The third aspect where IWAI is working is on navigational aids. In other parts of the country they have also provided roll-in and roll-out vessels. In Goa it has not been provided as yet but IWAI is considering the fact that whether Goa can be benefitted by that or not.  Goa has a potential for cargo movement through its waterways and we have seen that during the mining of iron ore. There are other minerals like bauxite, limestone, apart from the pharmaceuticals industry. 

The Minister for Ports, Michael Lobo announced that the Goa Government is seriously contemplating relaxing barge tax as barge owners have lost business due to closure of mining. Barge tax will not be exempted, but it would be lowered so that barge owners can afford to pay.

The proposal to reduce this tax is now under consideration and once Chief Minister gives his nod it will be placed before the cabinet and it is likely that it would be done within a month. 

Shashi Bhushan Shukla, member (Traffic) of the IWAI said, “The integration of Coastal and Inland Waterways is key to reduce logistic cost of Exim as a domestic cargo and western region has huge potential in this area. Goa must contribute a lot more with much needed policy intervention and support to barge owners. Approximately 90 per cent of Inland waterways traffic cargo (63 MMTPA) on National Waterways is currently contributed by western region with Goa having 3.76 MMTPA share.”


Iddhar Udhar