The Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (PSW) achieved a new landmark on Tuesday with the motor vessel dubbed (MV) Ram Prasad Bismil. It secured its position as the longest vessel to sail on the river Brahmaputra. The flotilla is 26 meters in width and 90 meters long. It comes loaded with a draft of about 2.1 meters. MV Ram Prasad Bismil completed the pilot run from Kolkata’s Haldia Dock after it was anchored at Guwahati’s Pandu port.
The motor vessel with its two barges namely DB Kalpana Chawla and DB APJ Abdul Kalam had been flagged off by Sarbananda Sonowal on February 16 from Haldia’s Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port. Sonowal is the Union Minister for PSW and also AYUSH.
The importance of such a pilot run is that it lays down the path for commencing barging operation to Guwahati from Kolkata via Indo Bangladesh Protocol Route (IBRP). The architectural marvel of the historic consignment stays at maintaining the navigational draft of 2.0 meters, particularly at the crucial stretches, including IBPR’s Sirajganj Daikowa stretch.
The Indian Government along with Bangladesh’s Government funded the dredging of the stretch with a ratio of 80:20 respectively for seamless navigation. Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority or the BIWTA and the Inland Waterways Authority of India or the IWAI collaborated, so that the cargo movements can proceed seamlessly.
Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal closely followed the developmental work and also supervised the dredging activity taken forward by IWAI at different areas in the stretch, so that the movement between NW1 and NW2 could begin on priority.
It must be noted that the minimum available depth for the last two fiscal years; i.e. FY2019-20 and FY2020-21, between Dhubri and Pandu stretch was 2.2 meters at the Brahmaputra. As per a recent LAD report, this depth depleted further and was drastically reduced to 1.5 metres in January 2022. From Chilmari to Daikhawa, the required depth of 2.2 meters was confirmed by BITWA.
Speaking from Delhi, Union Minister Shri 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 adapted mode of transportation, but it also allows the long-awaited connection 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 bringing business viability of water transport in Assam and reinvigorate the vitality of Brahmaputra as Northeast India’s economic fortune.”
Expressing gratitude on this watershed moment of the economic history of Assam, the Shri Sonowal, added, “For the people of Assam, the Brahmaputra is the lifeline. This was understood by the Prime Minister which is why he envisioned shaping the growth of this ecologically sensitive region via a medium that is widespread, economic & environment 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 the 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 the 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 find 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 & 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.