With the 205-km Kollam-Kottapuram National Waterway III expected to be commissioned in November, efforts are on to ensure connectivity between coastal and inland waterways in the State.
The two waterways are interdependent, though stakeholders in the sector had been viewing them as different till recently. “Their integration will give a tremendous boost to efforts being made to shift cargo movement from congested and risky roads to waterways,” Director of Ports Jacob Thomas says. Aimed at encouraging coastal shipping, the State government will begin operating a chartered vessel between Kollam and Kochi by May-end. The vessel will have inbuilt cranes to handle cargo, he says.
Efforts are being made to ensure a depth of 10 metres in minor ports to make them nodal points for cargo movement, Mr. Thomas says.
Though minor ports can manage with a depth of around five metres, a deeper draught will allow bigger vessels that can carry much more cargo to dock. This will, in turn, bring down the operational cost of water transport.
Sources say the Inland Waterways Authority of India has intensified dredging in Chavara, where the water bed is rough. In a few areas along National Waterway III, problems persist with depositing dredged sand and mud. People welcome the depositing of sand, but not mud.
Fishermen have been demanding more compensation to relocate their nets to allow smooth water transport. Even those paid a compensation of Rs. 1 lakh have reinstalled their nets on the waterway, obstructing movement of vessels, sources say.
An allegation is that the “lorry lobby” is instigating protests to stifle the development of National Waterway III and the coastal waterway since shifting to cheaper water transport will affect their business.
Taking note of the fatal accidents involving tanker lorries carrying inflammable gas, ammonia and hazardous chemicals, the Kerala High Court has directed public sector and other units to transport these goods through the waterways.