Banking sector being roped in to develop inland waterways

Last Updated: Sat, May 12, 2018 17:02 hrs

New Delhi: Easy financing models being worked upon to promote private participation for developing inland waterways.

As part of its readiness, the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) plans to bring on board the banking sector to ensure availability of financing options for private players engaged in Inland Water Transport (IWT) sector even as the National Waterways are being developed in the country.

Vessel financing and funding for Operation and Maintenance (O & M) of IWT assets is a challenge for shippers, vessel operators and asset management firms as the banking sector is not yet ready with any customized financing option for the sector.

The efforts being taken to facilitate vessel procurement and O & M of existing and upcoming assets - intermodal and multimodal terminals, jetties, logistics hubs, fuel bunkering and storage and other operations finance - for private players through customized financing options are in line with the Government of India's 'Make in India' initiatives and will be a shot in the arm for both domestic and global private players interested in working for the IWT sector.

At a day-long workshop held here with public and private sector banks, shippers, cargo owners and various other stakeholders to work out a formidable model in this regard, IWAI chairperson Nutan Guha Biswas underlined that banks needed to finance the emerging business opportunities that the private players are inclined to be involved with.

"We have started working on eight new NWs besides five others on which work had been on in full swing. Lots of investment are being done to develop the waterway sector which is going to complement railways and roadways," she said.

Member (Finance), IWAI Alok Ranjan too noted that "areas of partnership by diagnosing the factor of constraint of flow in this sector, learning from international experiences and sensitizing government and agencies to promote investment in this sector" may be explored.

Responding to IWAI's assessment, Bank of Baroda MD and CEO P S Jayakumar saidthat since the IWT comes under the infrastructure sector, it willhelp "Banks to provide long term financing having 15-25 year long tenor loan commensurate with the economic life of the ship".Our bank can provide the flexible scheme for financing like providing the moratorium period for loans on existing as well as the new projects, he said adding that issue of bonds can be the alternative source for long-term loan capital financing ship-owners. He, however, also flagged that 'due to financial regulations/industry classification issues, banks are not comfortable in lending for higher tenors."

National Waterways are being developed as a key transport intervention by the Government as part of an integrated transport network strategy and will help correct the transport modal mix that imposes huge logistics costs on the Indian economy. The costs of logistics in India, at 15 % of GDP, are about twice those in the United States.

IWAI Vice Chairman Pravir Pandey emphasised that work on capacity augmentation for making NW 1 and NW-2 were in full swing. "India has only one percent of IWT modal share in its transport network. However, things are on ground and moving. The sector throws ever growing opportunities for cargo and passenger movements".

To make Inland water transport a vibrant sector, Rajat Sachar, Advisor, Ministry of Shipping, sought recommendations from private players for policy changes, if needed. For the first time, government has decided to invest Rs 5369 crore on one NW," he said while referring to the Jal Marg Vikas Project being implemented between Varanasi to Haldia on the River Ganga.

He also appealed to the financial institutions to offer products for private sector investment in IWT sector where annual government funding has increased by 12 times in the last four years.

Joint Secretary (Logistics) at the Union Ministry of Commerce Keshav Chandra and Lead Environment Specialist, World Bank, Tapas Paul also underlined that a comprehensive network of Waterways are being developed in India and private firms needed to take advantage of the IWAI infrastructure in the best possible way.

As part of its efforts to encourage industry, IWAI will hold such consultations periodically with banks and stakeholders.



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