Water transport is the most easy and cheap mode of transport. Unlike rail and road transport we do not have to construct water ways because river and seas are given by nature.

Water transport plays important role in case of international trade.

During natural calamities like heavy rain and flood, when rail and road transport are not workable, rescue operations are undertaken by water transport.

Before independence, there were many private shipping companies. But after independence. Eastern shipping corporation was established in 1950, in 1956 Western shipping corporation was set up. In 1961 Indian Shipping Corporation was set up merging the two corporations.

Types of Water Transport

1. Inland Transport:

Generally speaking Inland water transport refers to the transport facilities available in the navigable waters, canals and back waters. It is the cheapest mode for certain kind of traffic provided the points of origin and destination are located on water bank. River and canal transport played an important role in the transport system of the country during early years but with the development of rail and road transport, this channel suffered the set back.

In Assam, West Bengal and Bihar this channel of transport is important. Half of the total traffic between Assam and Kolkata are shared by river transport and the remaining half is shared by road and rail transport. Water transport is important in Kerala where rivers and backwaters are used for ferrying goods and people. It has some importance in Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. In 1986, Inland Waterways Authority of India was set up.

2. Coastal Transport:

India has wide coast line of nearly 4200 miles. Transport facilities available along the vast coast line of the country through ships is called coastal shipping. The shipping policy committee recommended that Indian ships should secure 100% of her coastal trade. It is the cheapest mode of transport. There has been sharp decline in coastal shipping operation. In 1961, there was 97 ships and in 1980 the number came down to 56.

3. Oceanic Transport:

Generally speaking, Oceanic Transport means the movement of ships between the countries through sea routes. India’s international trade is carried on by oceanic transport. On the eve of independence, there were only 42 ships with less than 10 lakhs gross registered tonnage (GRT).


Govt. appointed a shipping policy committee in 1947. The committee recommended that India should secure 100% of her coastal trade and 50% of her overseas trade. Due to this policy shipping tonnage had increased. Port Trust of India (PTI) managed 11 major and 139 minor ports in India. In 1961, Shipping Corporation of India came into existence with the merger of Eastern shipping corporation and Western Shipping Corporation.