India measures around 2,933 Kms from West to East and around 3,214 km from South to North and boasts a coastline of around 7,516 kms..
Given such distances and the volume of goods handled, rail transport was found to be one of the cheaper options for all cargoes over medium to long distances..
Indian Railways entered the cargo market for moving door-to-door domestic cargo in special DSO containers starting in 1966..
The first ISO containers were handled in India from Kochi since 1973 but only in 1981, the first ISO container was moved inland by the Indian Railways to India’s first Inland Container Depot (ICD) at Bengaluru, also managed by the Indian Railways..
Container Corporation of India Ltd. (CONCOR), was incorporated in March 1988 under the Companies Act, and commenced operation from November 1989 taking over the existing network of 7 ICDs from the Indian Railways..
From that humble beginning, Concor has become the undisputed market leader operating a large network of 81 ICDs/CFSs in India (73 terminals and 8 strategic tie-ups) providing inland transport by rail for containers also expanding to managing Ports, air cargo complexes and cold-chain facilities..
Considering the inadequacies in the rail and road sector, in recent years, Coastal Shipping has become a major priority of the Government of India and has gained considerable ground following the relaxation of cabotage rules combined with inducement initiatives such as tariff concessions and dedicated berth infrastructure for vessels operating in that trade..
Amid increasing competition and a rapidly changing market, driven by weak demand and digitization, Concor has decided to enter the coastal shipping market in India..
Concor kicked off their coastal shipping operation from Kandla to Tuticorin via Mangalore and Cochin with their first sailing on Thursday the 10th January 2019..
The SSL Mumbai a container ship with 1613 TEUs sailed from Kandla in the West Coast to Tuticorin in the East Coast of India calling Mangalore and Cochin, en route, marking the start of a “unique multi-modal logistics solution” as it has been labelled..
Concor aims to strengthen the infrastructure along the West coast, to begin with, and plans to extend this to the East coast to achieve increased throughput on the network..
This coastal movement is expected to have great significance considering that the movement of cargo using waterway solutions is cheaper, seamless and also environmentally friendly than rail.. Ironical, for a company that started its operations on rail..
Officials said this is the first move by the public sector unit to enter into the coastal shipping sector and Concor has reportedly mapped the business potential of this operation..
Officials at Concor have reportedly identified a number of commodities that can be moved using this coastal route, including ceramic tiles and sanitary ware, soda ash, cotton bales, groundnut, waste paper, and consumer durables..
“With this, we will be one of the major players in the multi-modal logistics sector,” said a Concor official..
This coastal movement also fits into the solutions that Concor is able to provide as they are also able to arrange the first mile and last mile connectivity over and above the port handling and coastal transportation of loaded/ empty containers and bulk/ break-bulk cargo..
This fits neatly into Concor’s aim of providing a seamless solution to customers from origin to destination..
Speaking on the occasion, Shri Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation said,
“It’s a red flag day in the history of transportation in India. I’m glad to see this modal shift in the logistics chain. The combination of Railways and Coastal Shipping is a win-win situation for both modes as this will release capacity for railways to carry others goods and facilitate more commodities like steel, cement, and other general cargo to be transported through coastal trade, thereby enhancing the coastal trade basket.”
The coastal operation was contracted to Vishwa Samudra Coastal Lines Ltd., a third-party agency that Concor earlier selected through an intense bidding process..
Vishwa Samurda has, in turn, entered into a tonnage cooperation deal with domestic shortsea carrier Shreyas Shipping and Logistics, till their own vessels are available to be deployed..
Shreyas Shipping & Logistics Limited (SSL), part of Transworld Group of Companies, is a recipient of “The 2014 Gateway Award” for the best coastal ship operator in recognition of its investments and pioneering efforts in coastal ship operations in India..
The Gateway Award is one of the most coveted awards in the maritime industry honouring individuals, organizations, and companies across India’s maritime industry..
SSL is the pioneer & India’s first container feeder owning & operating company..
As per Minister Nitin Gadkari
“Besides being economical, coastal shipping is environmentally friendly and can result in a 6 percent reduction in harmful chemicals and pollutants in India. With an estimated diversion of about 5 percent cargo to coastal shipping, the reduced traffic on rail and road can result in savings of 230 billion rupees”
Gadkari also said that this modal freight shift — from land to sea — is critical to achieving the government’s dual goal of decreasing logistics costs and making domestic goods more competitive in global markets..
Further, he said even though the country has tremendous potential for the development of inland waterways, its coastal shipping share currently remains abysmally low — at 7 percent, compared with 24 percent in China and 11 percent in Germany..
In October 2018, in what was seen as a landmark moment in the history of shipping in India in recent times, PepsiCo moved 16 containers filled with food and snacks on a vessel, the MV RN Tagore (for Rabindranath Tagore) from Kolkata to Varanasi on river Ganga using the National Waterway-1..
This initiative marked India’s first container cargo movement through inland waterways and became the country’s first container movement on Inland Vessel post-independence..