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Bangladesh, India herald new chapter in river route cargo trade

  • Published at 12:00 am November 5th, 2019
Indo-Bangla River Route Indian Shipping Ministry
Photo: Indian Shipping Ministry

Over Tk360 crore investment on river dredging, infrastructures will make waterways navigable and increase movement of inland river vessels

Bangladesh and India have heralded a new chapter in river route cargo trade by opening up a channel for ships to ferry between Kolkata and Guwahati via Bangladesh.

Scheduled commencement of a container cargo consignment yesterday from Kolkata’s Haldia to the Northeast India’s biggest river port Pandu in Assam is expected to benefit the two South Asian neighbours in terms of boosting cargo commerce.

Shipping Ministry officials in Dhaka told Dhaka Tribune that such transportation of cargo from one part of India to the other will not only help India develop its relatively underdeveloped northeast region, but will also help Bangladesh benefit from levies earned from the Indian ship movements and greater movements of its own inland water vessels, thanks to greater navigability of its rivers.

SMS Habibur Rahman Hakim, a deputy secretary of the Shipping Ministry, yesterday said that both Bangladesh and India were investing on dredging and other river route infrastructure development works, which will eventually see use of river routes by Bangladeshi vessels to their full potential.

The India Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route extends from Kolkata on India’s National Waterway-1 (Ganges-Bhagirathi-Hooghly) to Silghat (Assam) on its National Waterway-2 (Brahmaputra River) and Karimganj (Assam) on National Waterway-16 (Barak River).

Shipping Ministry sources confirmed this correspondent that India and Bangladesh were spending over Tk360 crore, on an 80:20 cost sharing basis, in developing two stretches of Bangladesh inland waterways — Sirajganj to Daikhawa and Ashuganj to Zakiganj — on the IBP route.

The development of these two stretches is expected to provide seamless navigation to and from Northeast India through waterways via the IBP route. The contracts for dredging on the two stretches have been awarded to achieve and maintain requisite depth, said a release issued by the Indian Shipping Ministry on Sunday.

MV Maheshwari, carrying 53 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) containers of petrochemicals, edible oil and beverage, sailed from Haldia yesterday and was expected to reach Pandu in Guwahati via Bangladesh’s river routes in two weeks time.

According to the Indian Shipping Ministry, the 1,425km long journey is expected to establish technical and commercial viability of cargo movement on these multiple waterways, while a series of pilot movements are planned on the stretch. The latest move is aimed at providing a fillip to Northeast India’s industrial development by opening up an alternate route for transportation of raw materials and finished goods.

Pandu, developed on the bank of Brahmaputra River, is the most important and the largest river port in Assam state.

National Waterway-2 is an 891km long section of Brahmaputra between the Bangladesh border near Dhubri and Sadiya in Assam.

The Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWT&T) between India and Bangladesh allows mutually beneficial arrangements for the use of their waterways for movement of goods between the two countries.

India and Bangladesh have taken major steps to enhance utilization of waterways in the recent past. These include agreement on declaration of additional Ports of Call under PIWT&T at Kolaghat, Dhulian, Maia and Sonamura in India, and Chilmari, Rajshahi, Sultanganj and Daukhandi in Bangladesh.

Both countries have also agreed on declaring Badarpur as an extended Port of Call of Karimganj (Assam, India) and Ghorasal of Ashuganj in Bangladesh; Tribeni as an extended Port of Call of Kolkata, India and Muktarpur of Pangaon in Bangladesh; extending Protocol Routes No 5 and 6 — Rajshahi-Godagari-Dhulian up to Aricha in Bangladesh, and inclusion of the Daudkhandi-Sonamura stretch on Gumti River as new routes No 9 and 10.

Besides, a standard operating procedure to facilitate the movement of goods to and from India through Chittagong and Mongla ports in Bangladesh were signed by the two countries on October 5. The proximity of these two ports will reduce logistics cost and improve trade competitiveness of India’s northeast states, according to Indian Shipping Ministry.

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