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Wednesday , 17 April 2024

Inland Waterways Authority of India – Creating capacity for large scale water navigation

What is the role of River Information Systems, Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) and Digital GPS in Inland Waterways in India ?

A River Information System (RIS) provides a harmonized information services to support traffic and transport management in an Inland Waterways navigation system. It provides a safe and efficient fairway by avoiding ship-to-ship and ship-bridge collisions and grounding problems. The vessel is usually equipped with echo sounders, DGPS (Digital GPS) and a software such as Inland ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System) which provides a user-friendly, Windows based navigation system. It is pre-loaded with fortnightly updated electronic navigation charts and predetermined sailing routes which are enhanced with virtual aids, depth information, channel condition, channel marking etc. It also includes interfaces to other transport modes. The IWAI is already moving about three million tonnes of imported coal between Haldia and Farakka through a transhipment operation. This imported coal is transhipped in the Bay of Bengal. This coal is being brought by Panamax and capesized vessels which have capacities of around 80,000 tonnes. From these ships, the coal is transhipped to smaller barges of capacities of 1500-2000 tonnes. This coal is then transported through Haldia to the river bank at Farakka where there is a terminal where it is unloaded using grab cranes and then taken through conveyor belts to the NTPC power plant there. For this stretch of the Ganga, from Haldia to Farakka, RIS and DGPS systems has been installed. These systems have been very useful in regard to avoiding collision of vessels, sharing of information and fixing accurate position of vessels. They also include depth measuring equipment and Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) on board the vessels which enhance ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communications. DGPS stations have been installed along the Ganga at Swarupganj, Bhagalpur and Patna and another one is under construction at Varanasi. Along the Brahmaputra there are DGPS stations at Dibrugarh, Dhubri, Jogigopa and Silghat. Many more are being planned between Allahabad and Farakka through the Jal Marg Vikas project.

Under this virtual navigation marking system, based on the channel surveys, channel marking data, the required positions and the number of markings can be designed by experts and the data can be transmitted by the central server.

Apart from the existing ones, the IWAI is proposing AIS based stations at Sagar, Haldia, Jia jetty in Kolkata, Kumarpur, Shyampur, Balia ferry systems and also at Farakka. These systems will be state-of-the-art and comparable to any such system in the world.

You have been appointed as the Project Director of the Jal Marg Vikas Project?

This is the Haldia-Allahabad waterway project which was announced in the last budget. This is a World Bank funded project and will have a project management team which will includes a team of technically competent and experienced consultants with expertise in various domains – a civil engineering consultant , an environment and social impact assessment consultant, an inland waterways market sector and business development strategy consultant, a procurement consultant etc. IWAI itself is extending technical support for the project.

One needs to understand the scope of the project, the technical and financial requirements, the technical interventions required to achieve the 3m LAD, what are the hydro morphological (?), what is the hydrology, what are the survey and navigational issues, the RIS and DGPS issues etc – all these need to be studied first, along with the environment al and social impact assessment issues, which are critical issues. The IWAI has called for EOI for appointing consultants for three studies – a detailed feasibility and ancillary engineering study, an environmental and social impact assessment and rehabilitation action plan and finally for developing a IWT market sector and business development strategy. A global call for EOI was floated and we expected about 4-5 consultants to respond. But the call got an overwhelming response from about 20-22 top firms from across the world for all the three EOIs – from France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, UK, Hong Kong, China and India. A few firms will be shortlisted from this list after a due process of properly constituted evaluating criteria. This shortlisting has almost been completed and the shortlisted firms will be now issue RSPs to initiate the tendering process.

What about interface with other modes of transport?

This is a very important point. First, the aim of IWT is not to take away traffic from road and rail. Looking down at a timeline of over ten years and the growth of freight during this time, it is difficult to see the railways and road sector meeting the demand adequately. Various studies have shown that freight traffic will grow by about 50-60% over the next 20-30 years. There is a limit to how many railway lines can be laid and how many roads can be built to meet this demand. Thus inland waterways can act as a supplementary mode of transport. E.g the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor project is a World Bank assisted project from Amritsar to Dankuni. The alignment is such that it comes very near to the inland waterway between Kanpur and Varanasi. In this stretch it will be very useful to have both waterways and railways since they will complement each other and ease traffic congestion. In the Jal Marg Vikas project, we are planning to develop the terminals as multi-modal transport hubs with road and rail connectivity which will provide last minute connectivity to the hinterland.

Inland Waterways is one of the flagship projects of the present Union government which is supporting it completely. The IWAI is according prime importance to all aspects of this project – the consultancy aspects, the technical inputs and functional aspects. Once this mode of transport, Inland Waterways, is developed well, especially in the eastern and highly populated sector, where more than 40 crore people reside, it will ease traffic congestion considerably, bring coneectivity to people who live in the hinterlands and generate large scale employment. The IWAI is working on the project in the fond hope that within the next 3-5 years, IWT will develop as a viable, economic, environment friendly supplementary mode of transport. At present, the scope of the project is being explored from the technical, engineering and financial angles. More clarity will emerge as the various studies by the different consultants are completed. There are very strict timelines for the project and it is being monitored on a regular basis. There is a monitoring and implementing matrix that has been developed. Most modern techniques for implementation and monitoring of implementation will be being done. This is the first part of the preparation phase of the project.

Rajmohan Kurup

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