Belgian Knowhow To Boost Inland Waterway Transport

Written by Malcolm Subhan | Brussels, October 27: | Updated: Oct 28 2002, 05:30am hrs
Shipping minister Vedprakash Goyal has laid the foundations for closer co-operation with the Belgian authorities in the development of Indian ports and inland waterways, during his two-day visit to Belgium. A letter of intent (LI) was signed on Friday between the shipping ministry and the ministry of works of flanders, the authority responsible for the management of Belgiums ports, including the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge, and its inland waterways.

The main purpose of my visit, Mr Goyal said, is to find solutions to our problems of inland waterways, including the problem of silting. We are promoting inland waterways to complement our road and rail networks, which are continually overtaken by the growth in traffic, despite our efforts.

Several states want us to declare their waterways as national waterways, so that they can benefit from additional funds and other support, the shipping minister noted, adding this government has decided to give a fillip to waterways.

While the situation as regards Belgiums waterways is entirely different, their insight into waterways transport should help us find solutions, Mr Goyal stated.

LI provides for technical assistance in methods to control rivers to prevent flooding, and the organisation of workshops on the low-cost dredging of inland waterways, together with the installation of navigational aids and the prevention of marine pollution.

The Flanders ministry of works has long experience in the management of landlord ports. The port of Antwerp, for example, is managed by a port authority but has been built up by its users, which include numerous privately owned chemical plants and oil installations.

Under LI, the works ministry will help with the development of Ennore, which is being developed as a landlord port.

During his visit the shipping minister visited the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge, and met with private shipping and dredging companies, including Dredging International, which is active in India. We are not here to buy ready-made equipment, but are interested in equipment tailored to our requirements, Mr Goyal said. This included shallow vessels, mainly for the transport of cargo, and the different types of dredgers needed for dredging of seaports.

Under LI a number of training programmes for skill upgradation and exchange of knowhow will be organised in the field of port planning and management. The Flanders ministry of works will also provide information as well as guidelines for the procurement and replacement of equipment, norms for manpower requirements, and the formulation of concession agreements.

The shipping ministry and the Flanders ministry of works also undertake to mutually promote each others ports, by including promotional material in port exhibitions, and to organise a continuous exchange of information. The cost of implementing the programme will be shared by the two sides.

The LI was signed by RK Jain, chairman and joint secretary (Ports), and Jan Strubbe, Director-General. The Indian delegation included Ram Agarwal, additional PS to the minister; M Raman, CMD, Ennore Port; Captain NK Gupta, CMD, DCI and RP Khare, Director, IWAI.