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Assam gives big boost to water transportation, launches special boats under World Bank scheme

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma inaugurated several vessels in Lachit Ghat to provide a boost to water transportation

To fulfil Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of reviving waterways in India as a new step towards economic development by easing traffic pressure and cutting down logistic costs, both Central and State Governments are taking several steps. One such momentous measure was recently implemented in Assam when its Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma inaugurated a fleet of 10 Catamaran vessels, three tug boats, and a search and rescue vessel making a strategic addition to the State’s Inland Water Transport (IWT) fleet.

These vessels were launched at Lachit Ghat, Guwahati.

The rivers are the lifeline of Assam and this new fleet is a step forward to harness the vast potential of its river systems. It is also expected to provide several benefits in terms of safety, environmental sustainability and efficiency. Apart from revitalising waterways, these vessels will result in job creation, economic growth and a greener future.

At the event, the Assam CM said: “We will soon start a Hop-On Hop-Off Ferry Service connecting major religious centres around Guwahati. We are working on a Rs.700 crore plan to modernise Assam’s inland waterways.”

The Catamaran vessels were chosen to make Assam’s water transport system efficient. This watercraft has two parallel hulls of equal size and the distance between them imparts resistance to rolling and overturning. As the two hulls have a smaller hydrodynamic resistance than comparable monohulls, they require less propulsive power from either motors or sails. The twin-hulled design ensures a comfortable and secure journey for passengers.

Interestingly, the word “catamaran” comes from the Tamil word, kattumaram which means “logs bound together”.

Known for its stability and effectiveness, Catamarans will provide a safe and sustainable mode of transportation across the State’s waterways and their low-impact design makes them environmentally friendly and economically viable. The increased cargo capacity of the vessels is expected to benefit traders.

The 10 Catamaran vessels introduced at a cost of Rs.38.43 crore have a carrying capacity of 100 passengers and 50 motorbikes. The length of each is 31.20 meters while the breadth is 10.20 metres. It is powered with cutting-edge technology to provide 2 x 180 Horsepower – giving unmatched stability with a maximum speed of 10 knots while maintaining safety even in the most challenging river conditions.

These watercrafts have been named as MV Ugratara, MV Umachal, MV Aswaklanta, MV Jahnavi, MV Sapteshwari, MV Bhagirathi, MV Alakananda, MV Sunbhrangi, MV Triveni and MV Sankari. They will be commissioned in the strategic divisions of Assam IWT — six units in Guwahati, two in Jorhat and two in Dhubri.

Incidentally, two of the six Catamarans in Guwahati, will be part of the upcoming Assam Tourism Cruise Circuit, and be operationalised under the Assam Inland Waterways Company Limited. ATCC will cover four to five religious and tourist places in and around the river Brahmaputra in Guwahati.

The tug boats are expected to boost and bolster the efficient movement of cargo and passengers and their safety along water routes as they play a vital role in ensuring the smooth operation of ports and waterborne transportation.

Measuring 13.70 metres in length and 3.15 metres in breadth, the tug boats procured at a cost of Rs.5.38 crore are capable of operating even in adverse weather conditions. Equipped with 2 x 400 Horse Power these boats are designed with enhanced towing capabilities and high manoeuvrability and will facilitate efficient berthing and unberthing of vessels, reducing turnaround times and enhancing operational effectiveness.

To ensure safety of increased passenger and goods traffic by waterways, a search and rescue vessel was also inaugurated. This vessel will serve as the first responder during distress calls and has all the necessary gear including advanced navigation and communication equipment, speed and manoeuvrability to deal swiftly with all types of emergencies.

It is equipped with a high-resolution 24 NM radar which can track 10 targets simultaneously, GPS/Echo Sounder, Magnetic Compass, VHF Radio (Marine), and Walkie-Talkies according to a Press release.

The Assam Government in 2021 had launched the first set of 10 Catamaran vessels which are at present being operated at Guwahati, Jorhat and Dhuburi divisions of IWT. It has taken up the AIWT project with financial aid from the World Bank to improve the quality of inland waterways transport by integrating high-quality passenger and vehicle ferry services in Brahmaputra and Barak rivers.

The launch of these vessels and their impact was highlighted by Parimal Suklabaidya, the State Minister of Transport, Excise & Fisheries on the microblogging X.