The Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways, Government of India achieved a landmark when the MV Ram Prasad Bismil became the longest vessel ever to sail on Brahmaputra. The 90 meters long flotilla is 26 meters wide, loaded with a draft of 2.1 meters. With this, it successfully completed the aspiring pilot run of heavy cargo movement from Haldia Dock in Kolkata after it anchored at Pandu port here in Guwahati today. The vessel along with two barges – DB Kalpana Chawla and DB APJ Abdul Kalam – were flagged off from the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port in Haldia by the Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways (PSW) and AYUSH, Sarbananda Sonowal flagged them off on 16 February, 2022.
The significance of this pilot run lays down the path for commencement of barging operation from Kolkata to Guwahati via Indo Bangladesh Protocol Route (IBRP). The consignment – loaded with 1,793 MT of Steel rods from Tata Steel in Jamshedpur – had a requirement of draft of 2.0 meters. The engineering marvel of this historic consignment remains at maintaining the minimum navigational draft of at least 2.0 meters, especially at critical stretches like Sirajganj – Daikowa stretch of IBPR. The Government of India along with Government of People’s Republic of Bangladesh funded the dredging of this stretch – with 80:20 ratio respectively – for seamless navigation. The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) as well as Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) worked together so that this historic cargo movement can move smoothly. To revive & rejuvenate the vision of PM Narendra Modi to bring ‘Transformation through Transportation,’ the government took the onus of dredging and make the conduit a safe & smooth sail for vessels. The Union Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, closely followed all developments and personally monitored the dredging work done by IWAI at various areas in this stretch so that the movement between NW1 & NW2 can start on priority basis.
Speaking from Delhi, the Union Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal said, “The vision of our Prime Minister Narendra Modiji is to energise the Ashtalakshmi potential of Northeast to power the growth engine of India. Under his vision of ‘Transformation through Transportation,’ we worked tirelessly to rejuvenate the water transport in the region. This is not only the cheapest & ecologically most adapt mode of transportation, it also allows the long awaited connect for the business of Northeast through the marine network with the rest of the world. As the pilot run of this longest vessel plying on the Brahmaputra anchors a success at Pandu today, we must recognise that this was made possible by the team to chalk out a working route during this season of challenging depth at many stretches. We remain deeply committed to bring business viability of water transport in Assam and reinvigorate the vitality of Brahmaputra as Northeast India’s economic fortune.”
It must be noted that the minimum available depth for last two fiscal years; i.e. FY2019-20 and FY2020-21, between Dhubri and Pandu stretch was 2.2 meters at Brahmaputra. As per recent LAD report, this depth depleted further and drastically reduced to 1.5 metres in January, 2022. From Chilmari to Daikhawa, the required depth of 2.2 meters was confirmed by BITWA.
Expressing gratitude on this watershed moment of economic history of Assam, the Union Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, added, “For the people of Assam, the Brahmaputra is the lifeline. This was understood by the Prime Minister which is why he envisioned to shape the growth of this ecologically sensitive region via a medium that is widespread, economic & evniorment friendly. I want to thank the Prime Minister for supporting this initiative with all of his heart. We must also deeply thank the Bangladesh government without whose support this would not have been possible. On behalf of the people, I would like to extend our deepest gratitude for partnering with us to revive one of the best modes of transportation & creating an opportunity for mutual benefit & economic growth. Given the challenges, it would not have been a success without the support from the Chief Minister of Assam, Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma & I thank him for that. I would also like to thank the Government of West Bengal and Government of Bihar for all the support they provided for the successful completion of this pilot movement. I also commend the pioneering work done by the team of engineers, technocrats, and everyone involved to work around this challenge and finding a solution. We look forward to your support as we continue in our strive towards excelling & making inland waterways become the lifeline for the economic resurgence of Assam & the Northeast India.”
It is to be noted that earlier MV Lal Bahadur Shastri carried a consignment of 200 MT foodgrains for Food Corporation of India (FCI) from Patna to Pandu, successfully completing the Pilot Movement cargo between Ganga, the National Waterway 1 (NW1), and Brahmaputra, the National Waterway 2 (NW2). In addition to this, an Over Dimensional Cargo (ODC) for Numaligarh Refinery was also transported via IBPR further onto NW2 earlier.