After Hyundai opened up car transport through coastal waterways earlier this year, India’s largest car manufacturer Maruti Suzuki India Limited, is now planning to execute India’s pilot project for vehicle transport using inland waterways.
“A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) and Maruti Suzuki India Ltd for transportation of cars through inland vessels,” Minister of State for Shipping P Radhakrishnan said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.
IWAI has deployed one vessel at Varanasi for this purpose and has planned the transportation of cars from Varanasi to Kolkata through National Waterway-1 on the river Ganga, he added.
Studies suggest that water transportation cost in India approximates to 50 paise a km and is half of the railway transportation cost. It is in fact a third of what it costs by road.
Inland waterways comprising of rivers, lakes, canals, creeks, backwaters, etc. extend to about 14,500km in the country. Of this, 5,200km of the rivers and 4,000km of canals can be used by mechanised craft. Yet, due to lack of infrastructure, almost all of domestic freight transport takes place on land.
In other Asian countries, including China and Korea, waterways contribute to more than 40 per cent of transportation while European nations also employ this means of carriage for a major chunk of its freight. Despite vast potential, India’s utilisation of its waterways is restricted to around five per cent.
Indicating a paradigm shift in terms of waterway transport though, India’s lawmakers had recently passed a bill to convert more than a 100 rivers across the country into National Waterways.
Maruti using inland waterways would not only be a first for the Indian automobile industry, but would also set an example for the times to come.