Sea trade has been practised in India since ancient times. Transport by waterways is the most fuel-efficient, cost-effective and environment-friendly way to carry heavy goods from one place to another.
Large rivers and backwaters provide around 14,500 kilometres of inland waterways in India where, only 3,700 kilometres of these are accessible to mechanised boats.
Inland waterways in India are provided by the rivers Ganga, Brahmputra, Godavari, Krishna, Brahmani, Barak, canals like the East-West canal, West Coast canal, Buckingham canal, Damodar Valley Corporation canal and the Sunderbans area.
National waterway number 1 on the Ganga connects Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh to Haldia in West Bengal covering a distance of 1,620 kilometres. National waterway number 2 on the Brahmaputra connects Sadiya in Arunachal Pradesh to Dhubri in Assam covering a distance of 891 kilometres. National waterway number 3 on the West Coast canal in Kerala connects Kottapurma in the north to Ashtamudi Kayal in the south, covering a distance of 205 kilometres.
The major international trade from India is carried out from its ports that allow docking facilities for large vessels. India has a long coastline of around 7,516 kilometres along which lie 12 major and 181 medium and small ports.
Around 95% of India’s international trade is carried out from these 12 major ports which are:
- The Kandla Port in the Gulf of Kutch handles exports and imports for the fertile plains and industrial belts spread over Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
- The Mumbai Port is the largest port in India.
- The Jawaharlal Nehru Port at Navi Mumbai was constructed to decongest traffic at the old Mumbai port.
- The Mormugao Port in Goa handles around 50% of the total iron ore exports from India.
- The New Mangalore Port in Karnataka handles excellent quality iron ore from the Kudermukh mines.
- The Kochi Port is a natural harbor and the last port on the south-west coast.
- The Tuticorin Port in Tamil Nadu handles cargo bound for India as well as our neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
- The Chennai Port which is one of the oldest artificial ports in India, and second only to Mumbai in terms of volume of trade and cargo handled.
- The Vishakhapatnam Port is the country’s deepest, most protected landlocked port.
- The Paradip Port in Orissa is the main centre for the export of iron ore.
- The Haldia Port was developed to decongest the Kolkata Port.
- The tidal port of Kolkata has a rich Ganga-Brahmaputra hinterland and is an inland port services by the river Hooghly.
Air travel is the quickest and one of the most comfortable means of transport. The main advantage of using airways is that it can easily cross all kinds of terrain - from mountains, deserts, rainforests and wetlands to oceans. Nationalised air transport in India began in 1953 with the launch of Air India and Indian Airlines. Air India operates international flights from India.
Indian Airlines and its fully owned subsidiary Alliance Air operate domestic flights in India. Indian Airlines operates international flights to some countries in south-east Asia, south Asia and the Middle East. A lot of private airlines operate domestic flights in India.
Helicopter is another means of air travel that does not require long runways to take off or land, unlike airplanes. This form of air transport is especially useful in the north-eastern parts of India where densely forested mountains crisscrossed by rivers make it difficult to construct roads and railways. Pawan Hans Helicopter Company Limited provides helicopter services to government enterprises like ONGC and passenger services in mountainous area that are difficult to access.
Air travel is still very expensive in India and out of the reach of a large part of the population. Air transport is especially useful in the north-eastern parts of India where special arrangements have been made to make air travel services available to the common people.