The Coastal Shipping and Inland Water Transport Summit held here the other day has stressed the importance of an integrated multi-model transport infrastructure with emphasis on coastal shipping and inland water transportation.
According to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who inaugurated the summit, water transport is more economical and eco-friendly than road and rail movement. He said that in India with a coastal line of nearly 7,500 km, the cargo carried by water transport comes to below seven per cent of the total cargo carried at the national-level. In the state, various environmental factors make water transport unavoidable.
As part of giving more importance to water transport, the state government proposes to divert at least 20 per cent of the cargo through coastal shipping by 2015 and 40 per cent by 2020. Initially, the priority will be given for specified cargos. Apart from Vizhinjam, Kollam, Alappuzha, Kodungalloor, Ponnani, Beypore and Azheekkal ports are also earmarked for development in Kerala. At the summit, Excise Minister K Babu said ports and logistics were having a great role in the sustainable development of Kerala and offers immense investment potential.
He added that the Kerala Maritime Board which will act as a single window for facilitation for investors and operators in the port, shipping and logistics sector will be established in the state soon.
Experts who attended the summit said the roads are grossly inadequate to contain the increasing number of vehicles and the rail network is unable to cope with the demand. The only solution is to shift to coastal shipping and inland water transport.
They feel that the Cochin Port must expand. Vizhinjam port has to be developed with capacity to receive large container ships. This will establish a cargo link between Vizhinjam and other Indian ports. The warehouses, godowns, machinery and the rail and road connectivity to the ports must be upgraded to ensure effective functioning of these ports, they said.