Water Transport

The Indian mainland together with its island groups has a long coastline of over 6100 km. This long coastline is dotted with 12 major ports managed by the central government.

Then there are 186 minor ports operating under the jurisdiction of the state governments. The 12 major ports handle 90% of international water borne trade of the country. These major ports alone handled 384 million tonnes of sea imports and exports.

The major ports along the western or Arabian Sea coast are Kandla, Mumbai, Jawahar Lal Nehru Port (at Nhava Sheva on the opposite side of Mumbai harbour), Marmugao, New Mangalore and Kochi. Thus all the states on the western coast have at least one major port.

The remaining five ports are Tuticorin, Ennore, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Paradeep (Paradwip) and the Joint port of Kolkata - Haldia. Thus all the coastal states on the Bay of Bengal have at least one port each. The Jawahar Lal Nehru port of Navi Mumbai is the most modern port.

Inland Water Ways

The position of inland water ways in India is very poor. The total length of navigable water ways is only 14,500 km which can be used by mechanised boats and steamers. We are actually utilizing only about 2700 km long water ways.

Some important inland water ways are:

  1. Ganga river between Allahabad and Haldia covering a distance of about 1620 km. Big steamers and crafts can ply upto Patna. This water way is declared as National water way No.1.

  2. Brahmaputra river is navigable upto Dibrugarh a distance of 1384 km. Out of which only 891 km lies in India, the rest being in Bangladesh.

  3. The Kollam and Kotapuram stretch of west coast canal along with Champakara and udyogmandal canals in Kerala which stretches for about 205 km.

  4. In south, the lower reaches of Godavari, Krishna and Mahanadi serve as inland water ways. Buckingham canal between Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh is also an inland water way which is now hardly in use.

The following factors affect the inland water ways in India:

  1. Diversion of water of rivers for irrigation.
  2. Silting of river beds reduces the depth of river water.
  3. Seasonal fluctuations in the water level of the rivers.
  4. Presence of bridges, water falls and cataracts in the course of rivers.
  5. An unequal competition with railways and road ways.


  • Water transport is cheaper and helps in the promotion of foreign trade.
  • Twelve major ports on the coast line handle 90% of India’s sea imports and exports.
  • India’s inland water ways have not been developed as they can not compete with the railways and roads.