The pilot run marks the commencement of barging operation from Kolkata to Guwahati

In a historic first, Motor Vessel Ram Prasad Bismil on Tuesday became the longest vessel ever to sail on the Brahmaputra in Assam.

The 90 meters long flotilla is 26 meters wide, loaded with a draft of 2.1 meters. It successfully completed the pilot run of heavy cargo movement from Haldia Dock in Kolkata, West Bengal, after it anchored at Pandu port in Guwahati, Aasam, on Tuesday, said the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways

The vessel along with two barges - DB Kalpana Chawla and DB APJ Abdul Kalam - was flagged off from the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port in Haldia on February 16 by Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways (PSW) Sarbananda Sonowal.

This pilot run lays out the course for the launch of a barging operation from Kolkata to Guwahati by the Indo Bangladesh Protocol Route (IBRP), an engineering marvel that is still struggling with a minimum navigational draft of at least 2.0 meters, especially at critical stretches like the Sirajganj-Daikowa stretch of the IBPR route.

The consignment, loaded with 1,793 MT of Steel rods from Tata Steel in Jamshedpur, had a requirement of a draft of 2.0 meters.

For seamless navigation, the government of India and Bangladesh supported the dredging of this stretch, with an 80:20 ratio respectively. The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) all worked together to ensure that this historic cargo transportation proceed smoothly, the ministry pointed out.

Union Minister Sonowal added that this is not only the most economical & environmentally friendly means of transportation, but it also provides the long-awaited connection for the Northeast business by connecting the marine network with the rest of the world.

“As the pilot run of this longest vessel plying on the Brahmaputra anchors a success at Pandu today, we must also acknowledge that this was made possible by the team's ability to map out a working route during this season of arduous depth at many locations,” Sonowal said.

“We must also express gratitude to the Bangladesh government without whose support this would not have been possible. I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the people for supporting us in the revival of one of the best modes of transportation and providing an opportunity for mutual benefit and economic development,” he said.

Expressing gratitude on this watershed moment of the economic history of Assam, Sonowal added, “For the people of Assam, the Brahmaputra is the lifeline”.

This was understood by Prime Minister Narendra Modi which is why he envisioned shaping the growth of this ecologically sensitive region via a medium that is widespread, economic, and environment friendly, Sonowal said.

It must be noted that the minimum available depth for the last two fiscal years; i.e. FY2019-20 and FY2020-21, between Dhubri and Pandu stretch was 2.2 meters at the Brahmaputra.

As per a recent LAD report, this depth depleted further and was drastically reduced to 1.5 meters in January 2022. From Chilmari to Daikhawa, the required depth of 2.2 meters was confirmed by BITWA.

Earlier, MV Lal Bahadur Shastri carried a consignment of 200 MT foodgrains for Food Corporation of India (FCI) from Patna to Pandu, successfully completing the Pilot Movement cargo between Ganga, the National Waterway 1 (NW1), and Brahmaputra, the National Waterway 2 (NW2).

In addition to this, an Over Dimensional Cargo (ODC) for Numaligarh Refinery was also transported via IBPR further onto NW2 earlier.