The world’s largest container shipping company Maersk Line moved a total of 16 containers on India’s River Ganga recently, on the newly opened route from Varanasi to Kolkata. This is the first time that Maersk has carried out container operations on India’s inland waterways.
Maersk’s decision to transport containers on the Ganga river follows similar movements by firms such as PepsiCo, Emami Agrotech, IFFCO Fertilizers and Dabur India. Maersk cargo from the hinterland is expected to move directly to and from Bangladesh, and rest of the world, through the Bay of Bengal, in part using the river service.
A new multimodal inland waterway terminal at Varanasi, opened last November heralding the start of the first river container services. Since then there has been growing interest in using this route, which is claimed to offer lower handling costs, time savings, reduced damage and a lower carbon footprint compared with all road operations.
The Indian government is developing the Ganga river section from Haldia to Varanasi with the technical and financial assistance of the World Bank. Eventually this project will enable vessels of 1500-2,000 dwt size to operate on the river.