Kolkata, Jan 6 (PTI) Inland waterways cargo requires subsidy, at least till navigation in the protocol route via Bangladesh is smoothened to boost cargo movement to North East from Kolkata on the National Waterways-II, officials said.

“We are asking for some subsidy support for using NW-II, at least for a short term, till navigation issues in Bangladesh like dredging and installation of night navigation infrastructure are sorted out,” Summit Alliance Port East Gateway (SAPEL) COO Tushar Biswas told PTI.

SAPEL is a Bangladesh-based port and shipping operator which has signed an agreement with Inland Waterways Authority of India for the operation and management of two terminals in Kolkata.

Trial cargo of 1,000 tonnes TMT bars is proposed to be transported to Guwahati from Kolkata tentatively on January 15 along the Brahmaputra river that is categorised as NW-II.

Currently it takes around 12 days of sailing for the 1700 km journey, but the time could be reduced to just seven days if the Bangaldesh stretch of 890 kms had the requisite draft and night navigation mechanism.

Based on the current situation, the cost is coming to about Rs 3000 per tonne, which ideally needs to be brought down to Rs 2300-2500 per tonne to make it lucrative for corporates to use the waterway route, Summit Alliance Port AGM Sagar Khastagir said.

Ernst & Young, the consultant for NW-II, was working on pricing, he said.

Inland Waterways Authority of India could not be contacted on the issue.

“The support or relief can be a direct subsidy or also be in the form of lower GST by putting ocean freight and inland waterways freight at par of 5 per cent tax slab against 18 per cent levied on inland waterways,” he said.

On October 25, 2018, India and Bangladesh signed milestone agreements to deepen their maritime relationship.

Kolaghat (West Bengal) and Chilmari (Bangladesh) were declared as new ports of call.

Meanwhile, the terminals GR Jetty-II and BISN of Inland Water Transport (IWT) had been handed over to SAPEL in October last year for modernising, operating with modern equipment and managing on a revenue sharing model for a period of 30 years.

Biswas said, in November the terminals handled 42,000 tonne of cargo from 62 vessels and in December it handled 71 vessels with 55,000 tonne cargo.

In a year, cargo handling will go up to 1 lakh tonne, three times of earlier average from these two terminals, Khastagir said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.