Maia-Sultanganj Port Trial
The first trial movement of vessels carrying stone aggregates was flagged off recently on the Maia-Aricha route, connecting Maia Port in India to Sultanganj Port in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh flag vessel MV Desh Bangla, carrying stone aggregates, was flagged off by Minister of State for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Shri Shantanu Thakur from Maia Inland Customs Port in West Bengal. This marks a new chapter of bilateral cooperation between the India and Bangladesh, in line with India’s Act East Policy.
Significance of Improved Connectivity
The IWAI Chairman noted that consistent cargo flow from the Maia terminal will invigorate trade with Bangladesh, North Eastern states and usher in new economic opportunities. The Maia-Aricha route will reduce the distance from National Waterway-1 to Bangladesh and North East India by 930 km compared to roadways.
To improve bilateral trade, Bangladesh agreed to five trial runs between Maia and Sultanganj. This demonstrates the potential of waterways and marks a positive beginning for connectivity and cooperation between the two neighbours.
India’s Progress in Inland Water Transport
The Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways has undertaken several infrastructure projects on National Waterway-1 and Indo-Bangladesh Protocol routes through the IWAI to improve regional connectivity. The Maia terminal operationalization is a breakthrough, expected to shift 2.6 million tonnes per annum of Bangladesh exports from road to water.
Over the last decade, West Bengal has seen massive development in maritime and inland waterways. Under the Sagarmala Programme, 62 projects worth Rs.16,300 crore are being implemented in the state, with 19 completed so far. Additionally, 11 projects worth Rs.650 crore have been partially funded, with 6 completed.
Inland water transport is highly cost-effective for bulk cargo movement. However, its current modal share in India is only 2%. The Maritime India Vision 2030 aims to increase this to 5% by developing 25 new National Waterways.
The Amrit Kaal Vision 2047 has identified 46 initiatives like port-based industrial clusters, berths near production centers and connectivity projects to enhance coastal and inland water transport share. Proposed policy measures include reducing port charges, providing fiscal incentives for water transport and lowering GST for multimodal logistics. The plan aims to operationalize 50 waterways and introduce efficient vessel designs by 2047.