A 240-tonne barge operated on the 85-km Kottayam-Kochi inland waterway on Friday, signalling the movement of export-import cargo through National Waterways IX and III.
The vessel, operated by the Kottayam port, took about seven hours to cover the distance between Kottayam and the Vallarpadam container transhipment terminal.
“Being the first trip, the barge proceeded slowly as water hyacinth and other vegetation on the waterway had to be cleared using weed harvester. The vessel will return to Kottayam with four 40-ft containers of newsprint for a language daily,” said Abraham Varghese, Managing Director, Kottayam port.
“On Saturday, the barge will transport an export consignment of food items and rubber mats from Kottayam to Vallarpadam. We hope the route will clear in the coming days, following which the travel time can be reduced. There are plans to transport domestic containers via the corridor, for which bigger barges will be required. Apart from lessening congestion and pollution on roads, the waterway will help save transportation costs by approximately 30%,” he said.
The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), which owns the two national waterways, arranged pilotage and a weed harvester to clear the way for the vessel. “The two corridors also have provisions for night navigation and vessels can operate round-the-clock. The new barge service passes through 58 km of NW III and 27 km of NW IX,” said Mathew George, Director of the IWAI.
Officials of the Cochin Port Trust, DP World, and Customs were present to receive the barge at Vallarpadam. Friday’s barge service marks recommencement of cargo movement through NW III, after a similar vessel made an inaugural trip from Kochi to Chavara in 2007.
The waterway remained under-utilised as goods transporters had not been showing much interest, though the State government had announced a subsidy of Rs 1 per tonne per km.
Many benefits - A regular barge service will benefit importers and exporters by way of reduced haulage for the last and first mile connectivity. The cost of moving cargo through the waterway will be 30 to 40% cheaper compared to road movement, which is in line with the objective of Sagarmala, the flagship programme of Union Ministry of Shipping, a release said.