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NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government is set to push connectivity to at least seven religious places through cruise and increase movement of cargo through coastal shipping.

A report prepared by the shipping ministry following Modi’s suggestion to come out with a comprehensive plan has identified pilgrim circuits like Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Bhagalpur, Kolkata, Guwahati and Tezpur which can be accessed through waterways and cruise.

Pointing out that there was huge potential for cruise tourism, the report said 500-700 Indian passengers went on international cruises per sailing from Singapore simply because there was no such facility in the country.

The report also highlighted how coastal shipping and waterways were neglected despite the fact that transportation through water is cheaper, less polluting and more efficient than road and rail. Of the total expenditure of about Rs 7.32 lakh crore for the entire transport sector (roads, railways, shipping & ports and civil aviation) from the fifth five-year plan till the eleventh plan, the expenditure on railways was around Rs 3.77 lakh crore. The expenditure on roads and highways was Rs 2.38 lakh crore. Even the expenditure in civil aviation sector was approximately Rs 69,290 crore.

“Compared to these sub-sectors, expenditure in the shipping sector, comprising shipping, ports and inland waterways, has been Rs 47,391 crore, about 6.5% of the total expenditure in transport sector, in the same period through central government budgetary support,” the report said.

At present, coastal shipping primarily handles petroleum, oil and lubricants, coal and iron ore, which account for about 85% of the overall coastal movement. According to estimates, there is scope to increase coastal shipping volume by around 20 million tonnes per annum with products like cement, fertilizers, food grains, steel, marble, salt, sugar and cotton. The potential in the automobile sector is estimated to be approximately 100,000 cars.

“There could be several other commodities such as soda ash, bentonite, electronics, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and project cargo which need to be evaluated in greater detail to ascertain the true potential of coastal shipping in the country,” the report said.

Since Nitin Gadkari took over as shipping minister, the government has put greater focus on coastal shipping and waterways. Last week, the Cabinet okayed a legislation to declare 101 rivers as national waterways so that the Centre can explore the possibilities of cargo and passenger movement on these rivers.

Incentives for transportation through waterways

The government is set to provide financial incentive to transporters and shippers to push domestic cargo transportation through inland waterways rather than road and rail. The total incentive would be about Rs 295 crore. It will start from April 1 and continue till March 2017. Under this scheme, there will be incentive of Rs 300 per two-wheeler, Rs 600 per three-wheeler and Rs 3,000 for other vehicles if these are transported over water. Similarly, transportation of bulk or break-bulk cargo pertaining to seven commodities — fertilizers, food grains, marbles, tiles, sugar, edible salt and over-dimensional cargo — shall be eligible for an incentive of Re 1 per tonne per nautical mile up to a maximum of 1,500 nautical miles in each trip. Transportation of any commodity in containers in full container load shall be eligible for an incentive of Rs 3,000 per TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit).

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